Aquaculture North America

“Same as shutting us down”: First Nations leaders slam Canada’s plan to ban B.C. salmon farming by 2029

June 19, 2024
By Jean Ko Din

The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship gathered tribal chiefs from coastal B.C. to condemn Canada's five-year plan to ban net-pen salmon farming in the province.

First Nations leaders are expressing their frustrations for the lack of consultation and collaboration for the Canadian government’s five-year plan to remove net pen salmon farming in the province.

Hereditary Chief Hasheukumiss, Richard George, of the Ahousaht Nation Tyee Haw’il shows visible tears as he expresses frustration with Canadian government.

“Five years to transition to land-based or closed containment in my territory is the same as shutting our operations down,” said Hereditary Chief Hasheukumiss, Richard George, of the Ahousaht Nation Tyee Haw’il.

“We do not have the land or the supporting power infrastructure to do this. In fact, as I know a thing or two about salmon farming due to our decades of working with industry, this is not even logistically possible. Therefore, due to the no consultation on this decision, we will be allowing for a more realistic approach of a 10-year transition in my home.”

The press conference, organized by the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, gathered leaders from seven tribes in coastal British Columbia. Dallas Smith, the Coalition’s spokesperson and acting Chief for Tlowitsis Nation, said this is a somber reality check for chiefs up and down the coast.

“This has made us realize that if we want to continue towards self-determination, then the path forward is we have to lead that ourselves,” said Smith. “But we as a group of Nations who have been working together, we are committed to working with the government of the day. Those governments change, our hereditary leadership don’t.”

Each First Nations chief took turns emphasizing the lack of governmental consultation with their communities to draft a plan that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) touted as “responsible, realistic, and achievable.”

“As a nation, we are deeply disturbed… This decision is unresponsible, unrealistic and unachievable,” said Chief Terry Walkus, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations. “It undermines trust in good faith needed for a respectful nation-to-nation relationship and is a step backward in reconciliation.”

Deputy Chief Isaiah Robinson, Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation, held up a copy of the drafted recommendations that the Coalition formed earlier this year and said that none of their input has been heard by members of the government.

“We know our waters, we live here,” said Robinson. “We continue to work with our partners to adapt best technologies and practices of the day, the ones that work best for our geography, our waters and our access to power.”

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Smith emphasizes that the Coalition continues to call for respectful collaboration with the government, as well as other First Nations tribes that have expressed concerns about the environmental risks of salmon net pen aquaculture.

“If we can go back to having that discussion at a respectful level, we think we can work through a lot of the concerns that the First Nations have around our sector,” said Smith.


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