With the following statement, the leaders of our collective coastal Nations are making clear to those attempting to usurp our inherent, sovereign decision-making authority: we, as Rightsholders and the stewards of our lands, waters, and elements since time immemorial, will be recognized as the sovereign governing authorities for our traditional territories.
Regarding finfish aquaculture, we will choose if, when, and how the sector operates in our waters. That is our right, just as it is the right of other Rightsholder Nations to remove fish farms from their territories. The longer decisions are delayed on transition or the decision to renew licences in what’s known as the “Discovery Islands”, the greater the impact on our Rights and the greater the risk to our sector partners and our economic opportunities.
Those who believe the migratory nature of wild salmon supersedes those rights are wrong. We too rely on wild salmon to feed our people, and many of the salmon we rely on migrate from and to the Fraser River, where various projects and other industrial operations are damaging wild salmon habitat in other First Nations territories. If non-Rightsholder Nations want to set a precedent that allows First Nations to impact decisions in other Nations’ territories, what will this start, and where does it end? We ask you to re-think that, and to do as our people always have done: trust other Nations to do what is best for their communities, territories, and future generations.
All First Nations involved in the discussion involving fish farms (for, against, or neutral) have in common some of the most fundamental values to our people: Rights, title, self-determination, cultural protocols, and the responsibility from the Creator to take care of our earth for many generations ahead of us. This prioritizes and will continue to prioritize wild salmon, and we would not put at risk thousands of years of stewardship nor the future of our peoples for short-term monetary gain. Our Nations have, or are working on having, our own Guardians and Indigenous stewardship programs conducting the oversight, sampling, and testing of farms in our waters so we can apply our traditional knowledge to Western science to create our own data and make informed decisions in our communities.
For too long this conversation about this industry has been taking place between everybody except the Nations impacted the most. Activists, eco-colonialists, consultants, governments, and the companies have been at the table guiding the path and narrative of fish farming. Only recently has that begun to change.
We are more united than we are at odds, and our Coalition would like to remind other Nations of that, and push back against those trying to divide us, and divide our communities. We welcome the opportunity to sit down together, Nation-to-Nation, and listen to one another – and respect one another.
Only First Nations truly understand the fundamental values mentioned above that mean so much to our people. Only we know the ongoing impacts of colonization in our communities, and in our abilities to prosper.
Let us sit down together and remove the middlemen trying to pit us against each other.
The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship