First Nations

First Nations communities benefit from aquaculture

New government report pushes for a Federal Aquaculture Act while calling for increased funding for Indigenous fish farming initiatives. First Nations communities are in a unique position to benefit from, and contribute to sustainable aquaculture development in Canada, says a new federal government report.

However, limited financing for Indigenous aquaculture remains a challenge said the Agri-food Report from Canada’s Economic Strategy Tables.

“There is strong growth potential in the aquaculture sector, and Indigenous communities are in a unique position to contribute to its sustainable development and explore new opportunities,” said the report.

“Building upon the success of the Aboriginal Aquaculture in Canada Initiative, an increasing number of Indigenous communities and entrepreneurs are expressing interest to explore further aquaculture opportunities.

“The Table calls on the agri-food sector to work with Indigenous partners to jointly develop new approaches that will support positive outcomes aligned with the needs and aspirations of Indigenous communities.”

Over 40 First Nation and Indigenous communities are now directly or indirectly involved in farming seafood in Canada.

Aquaculture was highlighted in the report as one of the four priorities requiring immediate action citing the potential for the sector to nearly double production from 200,565 tonnes in 2016 to 381,900 tonnes in 2028 to meet rising demand.

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) said the report found stifled growth and lost opportunity for the aquaculture sector as a result of a complex regulatory framework and calls for an economic growth approach for the sector via a new Aquaculture Act.

“CAIA is very pleased with the report’s provisions for the aquaculture sector. It’s clear that the voice of Canadian seafood farmers was heard during the consultations,” said Timothy Kennedy, CAIA Executive Director. (pictured)

“The recommendations, when implemented, will enable our sector to meet its economic potential.”

“Canada can regain lost competitive ground and become a true global sustainable aquaculture leader. With a supportive policy and regulatory environment, our industry is ready to seize the opportunity, creating new middle class jobs and growing our economy, much of that activity in coastal communities and with Indigenous partnership and engagement,” said Kennedy.

“We encourage decision makers to enact the recommendations of this report as quickly as possible to ensure Canada can achieve its full potential as a leading competitor in global seafood production,” he added.

Meanwhile, the B.C. government has announced that its talks with the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations regarding salmon aquaculture tenures in the Broughton Area off Vancouver Island, is being extended.

“We are united in our commitment to ensure the protection of our wild salmon and believe that this government-to-government process will allow us to accomplish that goal,” said Bob Chamberlin, Elected Chief Councillor of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation.

“While we want this work to happen quickly, we must take the time to do it right,” he said.

The parties have been working as a formalized table since June of this year, to address historical concerns regarding outstanding open-net pen salmon farms tenures in the Broughton Archipelago.

Based on the significant progress made to date, the First Nations and the Province have chosen to extend their mandate by 60 days to continue their work, said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture for B.C.

Aquaculture giant, Marine Harvest Canada, which has several tenures in the area said it is committed to finding a positive solution in the Broughton.

“The work of the government to government table is important, and we respect that they are taking time to be thorough and make thoughtful recommendations,” said Jeremy Dunn, Director of community relations and public affairs at Marine Harvest Canada

There are over 400 jobs dependent on Marine Harvest farms in the area, said Dunn.

“We know the families that depend on those jobs are concerned but they are also hopeful that these discussions will lead to a workable solution, that will address concerns while allowing us to continue supporting good, local jobs and providing an important food source,” he said.

Farm-raised salmon is B.C.’s highest valued seafood product, the province’s top agricultural export, and generates over $1.5-billion towards the B.C. economy, supporting more than 6,600 jobs.

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