Maya’xala xan’s Awinakola is a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people opposed to open net salmon farming along BC’s west coast. Centered around the north Vancouver Island community of Alert Bay, the group is led by hereditary Chief and cultural leader, Ernest Alfred. An outspoken critic of open net salmon farming, Chief Ernest has seen firsthand the adverse effects of fish farms, above and below the water, and the risk they post to the west coast wild salmon runs. To demonstrate his opposition to the industrial salmon farm operating in his people’s traditional waters, Chief Ernest led the peaceful occupation of Swanson Island, where company owned cottages support the industrial fish farm operating just off its shore. ‘Swanson Occupation’ soon became the face of opposition against open net salmon farms, garnering the support of BC’s top Chef’s, restauranteurs and environmental leaders concerned with the future of BC’s wild salmon population.
Invited to attend a potlatch honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women, host Melina Laboucan-Massimo travels to Alert Bay where Chief Ernest Alfred takes her to Swanson Occupation. After examining the importance of wild salmon on the food and cultural security of BC’s First Nations, Melina heads to Vancouver to discuss the long term impacts of open net salmon farming with famed biologist David Suzuki in Vancouver’s only Indigenous restaurant.