First Nations

First Nations’ eco-knowledge vital for new salmon policy

“It is our responsibility to engage with First Nations, to find common ground, and work together through shared values.” Jeremy Dunn at the AquaSur conference in Chile

By Fabian Dawson


The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs wants First Nations’ collective traditional ecological knowledge to be a critical part of Canada’s new Wild Salmon Policy.

From the headwaters to the oceans, we have vast traditional knowledge that can help conserve the rich biological diversity of Pacific salmon, said Chief Bob Chamberlin, the Union’s vice-president at the recent launch of the International Year of the Salmon in Vancouver.

Chamberlin wants to see increased and meaningful First Nation’s participation in the  Wild Salmon Policy 2018-2022 Implementation Plan, which represents Canada’s policy forward over the next five years towards continuing to restore and maintain wild Pacific salmon populations and their habitats.

Salmon farmers in Canada have a long history of respectfully engaging with First Nations and local communities, and value the strong relationships they have with many First Nations.

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

In British Columbia, salmon farmers are partnering with coastal First Nations on 20 economic and social partnerships.

This week, Jeremy Dunn, Director of Community Relations and Public Affairs, Marine Harvest, Canada, (pictured) spoke at the AquaSur conference in Chile about the salmon farming industry’s relationship with First Nations peoples.

AquaSur brings exhibitors from the five continents and over 40 countries to show their products and acquire and exchange knowledge.

SeaWestNews caught up with Dunn after his presentation in the Chilean salmon capital of Puerto Montt;

Q – Tell us a little bit about the conference and what is the general relationship between the indigenous community and the aquaculture industry in Chile?

I presented as part of a panel at Aqua Sur, which is the southern hemisphere’s largest aquaculture exhibition.  There are similarities and differences between Canada and Chile with respect to indigenous peoples.  The similarities are that in small rural communities there is interaction with fishermen and it’s a relationship that needs to be worked on.

Q – How would you describe this relationship on Canada’s west coast?

Marine Harvest has great relationships with some First Nations, while with others we have unfortunately very little relationship or a fractured relationship.  It is our responsibility to engage with First Nations, to find common ground, and work together through shared values.

Q – What do you think are the key challenges when it comes to building relationships with the First Nations groups for aquaculture operations?

There are many challenges, including First Nations capacity to engage with us.  But overall – we need to work to build trust in areas where it’s not there… that takes time, respect, commitment and transparency.

 Q – How does aquaculture help First Nations communities?

Where we have successful partnerships we have become a cornerstone of the local economy.   Currently about 20% of Marine Harvest’s employees in Canada are First Nations, we have partnerships with First Nations owned and operated businesses – some of which we helped start through joint ventures.  Marine Harvest helps where we can, based on community priorities.   This includes sponsoring sports team and tournaments, working together on salmon restoration projects, or providing funding for scholarships and student bursaries.

 Q – How does the industry plan to attain the goals of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Canada has embraced in aquaculture policy decisions?

 At Marine Harvest we seek dialogue with First Nations in an open, transparent, and respectful way, and to build partnerships that provide a future for our farming operations in their traditional territories, while providing the community with a building block for their economy.



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