NUU-CHAH-NULTH, LAICH-KWIL-TACH, AND KWAKWAKA’WAKW TERRITORIES – Members of the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) would like to welcome the Minister of the Department of Fisheries, Oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard, the Honourable Joyce Murray, to their territories this week.
After accepting our invitations made last March, we appreciate that Minister Murray will see for herself how our Nations oversee and monitor finfish aquaculture operations in our territories and how we work closely with the sector to ensure that those operations are done responsibly and transparently with minimal risk to the wild salmon we rely on as coastal Peoples.
“We look forward to continuing the dialogue we started with Minister Murray in March during our Ottawa visit to get salmon farming licences renewed,” says Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition. “We have concerns around timelines but are continuing to work closely with both Canada and B.C. to build transition plans that achieve the needs of First Nations, government, and our local communities.”
In addition to touring aquaculture facilities and the newly Indigenous-led BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS), Minister Murray will be sitting down with hereditary and elected Chiefs from across Vancouver Island and the Central Coast to hear our visions for, and expectations of, the transition of finfish aquaculture in our territories.
This transition engagement process between DFO, the Province of B.C., and our Nations has a short timeline that we consider inadequate. We will be addressing that to the Minister, in addition to other concerns we have with this process. One key issue that some of our Coalition’s Chiefs will raise is the Minister’s upcoming decision whether to reissue the licences of salmon farms in the territories of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose First Nations (referred to as the Discovery Islands by DFO).
We hope this visit will encourage Minister Murray to listen to our Nations’ distinct and sovereign voices and understand the importance of finfish aquaculture to our coastal and often remote communities. Through the tours led by our Nations, we expect the Minister to acknowledge our longstanding traditional knowledge and stewardship of our waters while seeing the beauty of
some of our ancestral territories that we have called home for thousands of years.
This engagement process on net-pen transition can be an opportunity for the federal and provincial governments to take steps towards reconciliation with our Nations. By working together, we can build on the foundation of an innovative and robust aquaculture industry already operating in our waters and encourage coastal First Nations to help lead Canada’s Blue Economy here on the west coast.
We want to thank Minister Murray and her staff for acknowledging the importance of this sector to our Nations through this timely visit.
- The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship is an alliance of over a dozen First Nations from across Vancouver Island and BC’s central coast that wish to continue operating finfish aquaculture in their traditional territories.
- Above all else, the members of this Coalition are united over their sovereign rights to make decisions in their territories as core Rightsholders, with a goal to reclaim those rights as the original stewards and conservationists of their lands and waters since time immemorial.
- Leaders of the Coalition met with Minister Murray in Ottawa in March of 2022 calling for the re-issuance of salmon farming licences in their territories. In June 2022, Minister Murray granted a two-year licence renewal for salmon farms in BC ahead of the transition engagement process with First Nations.
- There are currently 18 First Nations with some form of agreement with finfish aquaculture companies in BC. The majority of those Nations wish to continue working with the sector and transition towards a form of finfish farming that is suitable for their territories and communities.