FN chief to BC salmon farmers: I want to assure my people that I’ve got their best interest
The newly elected chief of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation in Campbell River, British Columbia is noncommittal about the future of salmon farms operating in his people’s traditional territories but signalled his openness to dialogue with the industry.
Chris Roberts, who was elected as Chief Councillor in April, told members of the BC Salmon Farmers Association at the Seafood West Summit on Friday that there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of engagement.
“Dialogue is required and that’s going to happen under my leadership with my council. “We’re certainly willing to engage and sit down when we can. It’s a highly politically contentious issue in my community and being an elected community leader I want to assure my people that I’ve got their best interest. But I’m open minded,” he said.
Beginning June 2022, British Columbia will only grant tenures to fish farm companies that have agreements in place with the First Nation territories they operate in or propose to operate in, and who have satisfied Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that their operations will not impact wild salmon.
Roberts said he was glad to find out from a wild salmon summit he attended the previous week that wild salmon face “a myriad of things,” such as changing ocean conditions, upstream developments, sewage seepage. “It was reassuring to see that that conversation includes other things and not just the salmon farming industry being the ‘culprit’,” he said.
He acknowledged he will need some time to educate himself on the science and practices that have improved within the aquaculture industry. He also said he is confident the industry will continue on this path of improvement. “But our First Nations people, some of them firmly believe that the impacts of your sector are significant.
“Let’s walk down a pathway together to either validate or dispel, to move forward based on facts of what’s happening in the ocean… We are pleased to sit down with the industry operating in our territories, their agencies such as the BCSFA to explore what it is that needs to be done to achieve a common ground and how we would all work together,” he said.