Victoria police arrested six people for mischief and breaking-and-entering Wednesday morning after protesters occupied the dry-docked Orca Chief at Point Hope Maritime. They boarded the 113-foot vessel about 7 a.m. to show opposition to the open-net fish-farm industry.
Victoria police were called about 7:15 a.m. and the first three people left the vessel of their own accord about 8:45 a.m. The last person, who had duct-taped herself to the mast, was removed from the ship about 11:50 a.m. using a Victoria Fire Department ladder truck.
“We had to take a considerable amount of time to make sure that she was safe for us to get her down,” said Victoria police Const. Matt Rutherford.
A handful of supporters at the scene occasionally shouted encouragement to the protesters, and several more showed up as the situation unfolded.
Police are not yet sure how protesters got to the ship, Rutherford said.
Point Hope Maritime, a full-service shipyard at 345 Harbour Rd. with 100 employees, has implemented 24-hour security in wake of the incident.
General manager Riccardo Regosa said the situation was a first for the company.
“Until [Wednesday] morning, we had security on throughout the night from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with staff managing site access for the remainder of the day,” said Regosa. “We are grateful to the Victoria Police Department and Victoria Fire Department for their prompt response and professionalism to ensure the safe removal of the trespassers.”
Employee safety and client privacy are priorities for Point Hope Maritime, he said.
He said there was no apparent damage to the vessel and the company will do a thorough review of what happened.
Rutherford said the protesters could have been hurt on the ship.
“There’s tools, there’s chemicals, the ship is very high up,” he said. “It’s dangerous to the people protesting, as well as dangerous to our officers and everyone trying to get them off peacefully.
“A lot of resources have been tied up … for this.”
Marine Harvest Canada spokesman Jeremy Dunn said the Orca Chief has been at Point Hope for a number of days “undergoing its regular maintenance and inspections.”
“This is a specialized vessel for carrying live fish from the hatchery to the marine farms. It’s how we get all our small fish from the hatchery into our ocean pens.”
Marine Harvest Canada was in the news this year when fish-farm opponents, many of them First Nations, occupied farms off Vancouver Island.
In August, a B.C. Supreme Court justice granted Marine Harvest Canada an injunction against activists, but will allow one person — marine biologist Alexandra Morton — to continue collecting water samples within a buffer zone outside the company’s salmon farms.
Marine Harvest Canada won its application for an injunction that prevents activists from occupying its buildings on Swanson Island and from boarding any of its farms and docks along Vancouver Island and B.C.’s coast.
Namgis First Nation Chief Ernest Alfred, speaking for his family rather than the nation, said his relatives want the fish farms dealt with in the Broughton Archipelago, off Vancouver Island’s east coast.
“Within our territories, these farms are not permitted any longer and we want them removed.”
Alfred did not take part in Wednesday’s protest, but said some of his family members did so. He has heard that his aunt and her son were arrested.
Three First Nations have been in discussions with the province of B.C. about the future of fish farms in the Broughton. The farms’ tenures expired in June and have been renewed month-by-month.