BC First Nations push province to revoke salmon farm licences


BC First Nations push province to revoke salmon farm licences

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 9:23PM EDT

British Columbia’s new NDP government campaigned on a promise to transition the province’s fish-farming industry away from open-sea pens to land-based sites, but First Nations are pushing for more aggressive action. They want the province to revoke the licences of unwanted salmon farms operating in their territorial waters.

B.C.’s aquaculture industry was once again in the spotlight last week after thousands of Atlantic salmon may have escaped a Washington State fish farm near the border.

On the weekend, Governor Jay Inslee said his state will stop permitting any new net pens after the incident.

Bob Chamberlin, chairman of the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance, said he told B.C. Premier John Horgan in a meeting with other Indigenous leaders Friday afternoon that his government must make changes to the industry if it is serious about honouring its commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“When you consider the UN declaration in relationship to fish farms, I think of free prior and informed consent, I think about the comments and sections on maintaining cultural traditions and food security and the territorial authority [of First Nations],” he said late on Friday.

“I want to put this in front of them and say ‘if you’re going to respect the declaration how can you not affect change to this industry and our territory.’”

Mr. Chamberlin, Chief Councillor of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, said he will meet again with the Premier early this week to talk about the issue ahead of a government-sponsored conference with First Nations leaders in Vancouver Sept. 6. “We have never welcomed them in our territory – we have a very clear message about what we want to see,” he said.

Before the May election, NDP candidate Claire Trevena told Indigenous constituents in her northern Vancouver Island riding that, if it formed government, her party would remove fish farms from their waters and move these operations inland.

On Friday, a government spokesperson said B.C. is committed to working with the aquaculture industry to move to closed containment where possible. “We look forward to working in partnership with First Nations to determine a way forward,” the government’s statement said.

B.C. and Washington State each have the largest fish-farm industries in Canada and the United States. B.C. produced about 93,000 tonnes of farmed salmon worth $470-million in 2015, according to statistics compiled by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. There are currently 126 licensed fish-farm sites operating in B.C., with a small cluster on the central coast that the rest in southern coastal waters, according to a list published by the DFO. In Washington State, the industry produces about 7,700 tonnes of Atlantic salmon each year, according to the state.