A tent and camp has been set up on Lelu Island.

A tent and camp has been set up on Lelu Island.

First Nations set up camp on Lelu Island to protect Flora Bank

Several North Coast First Nations members have set up a camp on Lelu Island as part of a "peaceful occupation" of the island.

Several North Coast First Nations members have set up a camp on Lelu Island as part of a “peaceful occupation” of the island that is the proposed site of Pacific NorthWest LNG.

The development was initiated by Sm’oogyet Yahaan (Don Wesley Sr.), who traveled to his traditional territory with his sons Don and Joey to exercise his Aboriginal right to the territory and protect Flora Bank from industrial activity. A tent was setup on the island and more than a dozen people were reported to have spent the night of Aug. 25 on Lelu Island.

“We are there to carry out traditional Tsimshian activities such as smoking salmon, picking berries, drying halibut strips, and picking medicines such as devil’s club, and have every right to do so with Sm’oogyet Yahaan’s permission,” reads a statement from the group.

One of the concerns of those involved relates to the eelgrass on Flora Bank, an important habitat feature for salmon in the area.

“We got word that they’re trying to cut off eelgrass off Flora banks, and they’re going to try to transplant that at another location in the Skeena River here somewhere,” said Joey Wesley.

Michael Gurney of the Prince Rupert Port Authority said the port authority respects people’s right to express their views on projects, but notes protocols were followed and the work itself was authorized by the elected Lax Kw’alaams Band. As well, he noted the work is preliminary studies and does not indicate the commencement of construction.

At the same time, the Lax Kw’alaams Band put out a statement indicating that, while negotiations surrounding the development of the project are ongoing, the band is heavily involved in the exploratory work expected to take place over the coming months.

“That exploratory work is to commence soon. Please note that Lax Kw’alaams technical advisors (Dr. McLaren and the entire fisheries team) are fully involved in the process and are vigilantly considering all proposals and information,” read the statement.

“More importantly, any decision by band council in connection with a project at Lelu Island will require extensive community meetings, consultation and a referendum in which all eligible Lax Kw’alaams may vote by secret ballot to approve or reject such a project.”

The group has launched the Stop Pacific NorthWest LNG/Petronas on Lelu Island Facebook page to provide updates on their activity, a page which already has 743 “likes”.