Aquaculture North America

B.C. First Nations group proposes plan for sustainable salmon aquaculture

November 28, 2023
By Aquaculture North America staff

Photo left to right: Thomas Smith, Deputy Chief Isaiah Robinson, Dallas Smith, Chief Simon Tom, Brian Assu, and James Wallas. (Photo: Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship)

The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) in British Columbia has developed a plan for salmon aquaculture that they hope will drive wild salmon revitalization; economic reconciliation; an Indigenous-led blue economy; social and ecological well-being for their territories and communities; food security and affordability for their communities and all Canadians. 

The coalition came to Parliament Hill on Nov. 28 to announce their plan which ensures that the future of salmon farming in B.C. is led by the Nations in whose territories the farms operate while retaining good, sustainable, year-round jobs and building economic and scientific capacity in Indigenous communities. It also integrates the vision for a new Indigenous Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (iCAHS) based in Campbell River, B.C. 

Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition, said they have shown that they can be both salmon stewards and farmers in their sovereign states.

“As conservationists, our coastal Nations have travelled thousands of kilometres to Parliament Hill to present a solution to what’s been a divisive issue in B.C.: a real, achievable plan for salmon farming that enables our remote communities to continue to thrive socially, economically, and culturally while working to revitalize wild salmon,” said Smith.

Forty per cent of the fish farms in B.C. closed in recent years, about 400 jobs have been lost, small businesses have been impacted, and food bank lines are longer in communities like Port Hardy on Northern Vancouver Island. Considering the impact on remote communities, Smith said any further decision regarding the future of the sector must be done so with Rightsholder Nations at the table and with their communities in mind. 

Isaiah Robinson, Deputy Chief Councillor for Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation said his community has 99 per cent employment and 51 per cent of their income comes from the salmon farming sector. “Because of the work and dignity that comes with the salmon farming industry, we have had no suicides in my community of Klemtu for the past 18 years. Think about that,” said Robinson. “It makes no sense to shut it down. There is no industry that can fill that space.” 

“If Canada is going to walk the talk on true reconciliation, I think every Canadian would agree that the future of modern salmon farming in B.C. must be shaped by the coastal First Nations in whose territories the farms are located,” Smith added. 

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