Fish farm at centre of dispute between Comox teen and her soccer team

Freyja Reed has always loved soccer. However, the Vancouver Island teen says she’s never been a fan of salmon farms.

“I know they are harmful to the wild salmon here,” said 14 year-old Freyja Reed.

It’s why she was disappointed when she learned her Upper Island Riptide under-15 girls soccer team would be sponsored by Marine Harvest, an open net fish farm.

She and her mother said they weren’t told until after Freyja made the team.

“It was definitely upsetting,” said Freyja.

Freyja’s mother, Anissa, an activist who’s protested against the farms in the past, says she wasn’t impressed either. They contacted the team and also created a Facebook page to voice their concerns.

Anissa said that move prompted a stern warning from team officials.

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“The last email said that if Freyja wants to play soccer, both her and I need to stop all of our sideline chatter. We’re not supposed to talk bad about the sponsor at any events or games and consider this email strike one,” she said.

The chair of Riptide’s steering committee says the social media posts violated their code of conduct.

The code states “off field activities such as negative comments in social networks, texts, emails, websites blogs, correspondence, bullying, gossip, misinformation, intimidation or any other such activity as related to soccer and the Riptide/Storm program is subject to discipline whether directed at an individual participant, team or impacting the good of the game. Concerns should be brought forward to the coaching staff first and to the steering committee, secondly, if a concern has not been addressed. Violations of parent conduct will be dealt with using the UISA three strike policy. More serious offences meriting discipline in accordance with BCSA policies and procedures may result in extended suspension from all BCSA-organized soccer.”

Sean Arbour, chair of the Riptide Steering Committee, says the team spoke with the Reeds about their concerns.

“We’d already come to an agreement and made concessions and unfortunately that’s all fallen apart now,” said Arbour. “I don’t know if it’s time for them to them to realise that maybe they can’t work within our program.”

Anissa said she and the team did not come to an agreement.

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Fish farms have long since been controversial in British Columbia. Global News asked the Arbour why the soccer team would choose Marine Harvest as a sponsor despite that controversy.

“At no time did it enter any of our minds that we were asking a controversial fish farming company to sponsor our program. We knew that the individuals that were part of the organization were very passionate about soccer and that’s what we wanted to tap into,” said Arbour.

The team and company have signed a three-year sponsorship agreement.

Since this story came to light, Arbour said the team has been fielding questions from other parents.

In an email, Ian Roberts with Marine Harvest Canada says it “has not and will never direct a sponsorship recipient to endorse the company.”

Both Roberts and Arbour refute claims the family is being muzzled.

Anissa and Freyja feel differently.

“I do feel like I’m being muzzled. I feel like the corporation, Marine Harvest, are the ones doing it,” said Anissa.

“I want to speak up for what I believe in and I’m not going to let this industry push young people around,” said Freyja.

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The teen said she’s still not sure what her next step will be.

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