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Two of the First Nations that hold partnerships with salmon growers in BC have said the Sea Shepherd's 'Operation Virus Hunter' is not welcome in their traditional territories.

Over the last two days, first the Ahousaht First Nation, and now the Tlowitsis First Nation, have publicly stated that "Operation Virus Hunter" is not welcome in their territories.

The expedition, along with a star-studded cast, including Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, announced their 6 week tour on Monday, where they will travel up the east coast of Vancouver Island, stopping at salmon farms along the way to conduct "audits".

But they will not be welcomed with opened arms in the traditional territories of the Tlowitsis or the Ahousaht First Nations.

Tlowitsis stand by Grieg

In a press release, Chief John M Smith described the partnership between the Tlowitsis and Grieg Seafood BC, saying: "The Tlowitsis Nation’s partnership with Grieg Seafood is [also] integral to the Nation’s economic well-being. Not only does it employ our members but Grieg Seafood has been supportive in many aspects of the Tlowitsis’ community.

"This partnership is vital to the Tlowitsis being able to be economically sustainable, especially as the reality of the new community is on the horizon. Like many First Nations in BC the Tlowitsis are eager to develop a long lasting economy from our Traditional Territory. Clio Channel is a cornerstone for our Nation and it was after careful consideration, we developed an economic partnership with Grieg Seafood.

"It is our opinion that protesters in our Traditional Territory could impact not only our members who work in the area but others who have our consent to make their livelihood in our Traditional Territory.

"Council would ask that any visitors in our Traditional Territory, and in particular Clio Channel, seek permission to enter any of our reserves, leaseholds our partners’ properties.

"We would request that any protestors stand down. The Sea Shepherd Operation Virus Hunter group are not welcome in our Territory."

Ahousaht back Cermaq

For the Ahousaht First Nation on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the salmon aquaculture industry has has become an integral part of the community, with up to 40% of Cermaq Canada employees belonging to the Ahousaht.

“It’s a huge part of the economic picture for the community,” Ahousaht Tyee Ha’wilth Lewis George told the local First Nations newspaper, the Ha-Shilth-Sa.

As of now, the Virus Hunt will not be visiting Cermaq farms in Ahousaht territory.

“Our view is that Cermaq is one of the partners on the Sound, and there are a lot of other operators that could be impacted if people come in to protest,” Trevor Jones, CEO of the Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Corporation, told Ha-Shilth-Sa.

One of the main faces of the operation, Alex Morton, told Ha-Shilth-Sa that they would not be entering Clayoquot Sound, adding that she is well aware of Ahousaht’s relationship with Cermaq.

“That’s why we’re not going there. If a First Nation wants to work with the industry and doesn’t want the boat there, then we’re not going to go there. We go where we’re wanted,” she said told Ha-Shilth-Sa.