In an attempt to draw attention to a long simmering dispute, environmentalists and the chiefs of several First Nations in British Columbia have held a 29-hour fast that ended Tuesday just as Canada was about to play Norway in men's hockey.
The fast was held at the offices of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, where about a dozen people spent Monday night, watching movies and giving interviews to the media.
"I would love to have some popcorn," said Don Bain, Executive Director of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
He said the symbolic protest was held for 29 hours to represent the 29, mostly Norwegian-owned salmon farms in the traditional territory of coastal Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk Tribal Council.
"Norwegian-owned salmon farms operating in our traditional territorial waters are killing wild salmon and strangling the lifeblood of our whole culture," said Chief Bob Chamberlin, of the Musgamagw-Tsawataineuk, a tribe located around Alert Bay and Port McNeill, on northern Vancouver Island.
Farmed salmon, which are raised in open net cages in the ocean, have been blamed for causing sea lice epidemics in wild salmon.
"With grizzly bears starving on the B.C. coast because of local extinctions of wild salmon, and fishing opportunities ruined for people, you've got whole communities that are threatened. Salmon farms have spread along the coast like a cancer - and a lot of us believe the only solution is to rip them out," said Don Staniford, Global Co-ordinator of the Pure Salmon Campaign, an international umbrella organization representing numerous groups opposed to salmon farms.
Mr. Staniford, who had flown in from Spain to join the fast at the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, a few blocks from the Olympic Games media centre, said the protest was taking aim at Norway, because that country has invested so heavily in salmon farming.
"This isn't an anti-Olympics protest or even anti-Norway. It is a respectful and quiet way for us to point out to the world's media that 92 per cent of the fish farms on the Pacific coast are owned by Norwegian companies. And we think Norway should be ashamed of that," said Mr. Staniford.
He said the protesters had written a letter to King Harald V of Norway, who is expected to attend the Games, and they would be delivering it to the Royal Norwegian Consulate in Vancouver.
"Norway is a proud country, but Norwegian salmon farming companies are bringing Norway into international disrepute," said Chief Chamberlin who has twice made trips to Norway to raise his concerns with officials there.
The group also released a letter from Georg Fredrik Rieber-Mohn, the former Attorney-General of Norway, who headed a government commission charged with devising a plan to protect wild salmon from farmed salmon impacts.
In the letter Mr. Rieber-Mohn said not enough was done and Canada should learn from that example.
"I fear Canada will teach Norway a lesson today on the Olympic ice rink but I hope Canada can learn the lessons of Norway with respect to wild salmon and open net cage salmon farms," he wrote.
"In 1999, I was proud to present the so-called 'wild salmon plan' which proposed national protection for the 50 best salmon rivers and the 9 most important fjord-systems across Norway - the national laksfjords - where salmon farms would be prohibited. However, intense lobbying from the salmon farming industry watered down the proposals so that by the time they passed the parliament in 2007 the protected fjords had become smaller and gave less protection against the salmon farming industry," he wrote.
"The result has been a heavy defeat for wild salmon and a huge win for sea lice," wrote Mr. Rieber-Mohn.