Smoked-fish business owners fear for their livelihood

Liza Mayer
April 02, 2018
By
Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc relies on the aquaculture industry for over 60 percent of its fish supply. It employs 75 staff, more than half of  whom are First Nations members
Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc relies on the aquaculture industry for over 60 percent of its fish supply. It employs 75 staff, more than half of whom are First Nations members Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc
A British Columbia couple who owns a smoked-fish business is worried about the uncertainty surrounding the fate of a number of salmon farms that are up for tenure renewal this year.

The couple, Carol and Bruce Dirom of Port Hardy’s Hardy Buoys Smoked Fish Inc, says shutting down salmon farming will put them and their 75 employees out of work. More than half of their workforce consists of First Nations members.

Roughly 65 percent of the 680,000 kilograms of fish processed by the company every year is farmed salmon, said the couple. “Without the steady, reliable supply of fish from farms, we wouldn’t have the certainty needed to stay in business.”

The Diroms expressed their concerns in a letter to the Times Colonist. They are asking the BC government “to consider the issues in fish farming in a sensible and pragmatic fashion, setting aside politics and hyperbole in favour of science and community interests.”

Salmon tenures in British Columbia became a hot-button issue in October after BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham wrote Marine Harvest Canada (MHC) regarding its dispute with local First Nations. The letter appeared to warn MHC, and indeed all who hold tenures with the government, about the importance of collaboration with the First Nations. “As you are aware, government will be reviewing tenures and will make a decision on renewals before the current leases expire,” Popham wrote.

MHC has nine sites that are up for renewal this year. Other companies operating in the area, Grieg and Cermaq, are also subject to five-year terms in the area.

“These are sensitive topics right now, and a lot of people are afraid to stick their necks out in the current environment, but we need to speak up and tell the government it is critical to our business and our larger community that they make rational decisions about salmon farming, and consider the communities where the farming actually happens,” the Diroms wrote.

In neighboring Washington State, salmon farming will no longer be allowed after current tenures expire in 2022.

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