First Nations hail new pact with B.C. salmon farmers

Agreements highlight importance of supporting wild salmon populations while building aquaculture capacity within the First Nations

By SeaWestNews

Three First Nations are hailing a pact, that gives them oversight into the operations of salmon farming companies in their traditional territories in Northeastern British Columbia.

The agreements between ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, and Mamalilikulla First Nations with Cermaq Canada, and Mowi Canada West, sets the stage for an orderly transition of 17 salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago between 2019 and 2023.

The Broughton Archipelago is a group of islands on the northeastern flank of the Queen Charlotte Strait on the coast of British Columbia.

Five farms in the area have already been decommissioned, while others will remain in operations for various terms (two to four years). By the end 2022, 10 farms will have ceased operations. The remaining seven farms will cease operations, unless agreements by First Nations and farm operators, and valid Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) licences are in place by 2023.

The Broughton First Nations Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Plan (IMIP) reinforces the importance of supporting wild salmon populations while building capacity within the First Nations and working in a transparent manner with industry.

The Province of BC and DFO recently announced that the Nations involved in the IMIP will receive over seven million dollars in funding through the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) to support the establishment of the program. Both Cermaq and Mowi are also providing funding and in-kind support to the program.

 “The Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Plan is an important achievement for our Nations, an expression of our Nations’ exercising jurisdiction in our territories and regulating an industry operating in our territorial waters,” said Chief Rick Johnson of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation.

Chief Don Svanvik, of the Namgis First Nations said the agreement allows First Nations in the area to help develop standards to minimise, mitigate or avoid harm to marine resources, especially wild salmon.

“Stewardship in our territories is a sacred trust and responsibility, a commitment to future generations that we will protect the land, resources and waters in our territories far into the future,” said Chief Richard Sumner, of the Mamalilikulla First Nation.

“The IMIP agreements are important tools that will enhance the ability of our Nations to fulfill this responsibility as well as improve transparency by providing trusted information to our members and the public about the interactions of farm operations and marine resources.”

Last December, Premier John Horgan when announcing a letter of understanding (LOU) regarding the future of finfish aquaculture in the Broughton area, said the deal will protect wild salmon stocks, recognize traditional First Nations rights and pave the way for future expansion of B.C.’s sustainable salmon farming industry.

“The companies are here to stay. Indigenous communities are prepared to work with them to find a path forward. So, we are celebrating that path today,” Horgan told the Vancouver Sun.

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, resulting in over 6,600 jobs.

“We are incredibly pleased with the outcome of this process and would like to thank the Nations involved for their willingness to work with us and allow us to participate in the development of this precedent setting program and agreement,” said David Kiemele, Managing Director, Cermaq Canada.

“Cermaq is committed to move forward, together, in a way that will help to protect and enhance wild salmon populations, with the goal of building capacity, relationships and trust,” said Kiemele, who is also the chairman of the B.C. Salman Farmers Association.

Dr. Diane Morrison, managing director of Mowi Canada West said the agreement is “so important to the 600 people who work for Mowi and the hundreds of contractors that support our salmon farming operations.”

“I am grateful for the vision and efforts of the First Nations leaders we have deeply engaged with over the past number of months. Mowi believes strongly in equitable and meaningful relationships with First Nations in B.C.”

“We knew when we started the government-to-government discussions that we had found a way of collaborating that could be used as a model going forward, and the results so far have been remarkable,” said Lana Popham, B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture.

“The progress has all been possible because we worked hard to ensure people could come together and find a different way of doing things, and the success we’ve had makes it clear that new way is working,” she said.

The IMIP sets objective standards for:

• fish health on fish farms;

• monitoring and testing for pathogens, diseases, and disease agents in hatchery smolts to ensure that smolts are free of disease, disease agents, and pathogens before they are introduced or transferred into the open-net pens at fish farms;

• monitoring and testing for pathogens, diseases, and disease agents while fish are in the open net pens;

• monitoring and testing of the farmer’s integrated sea lice management programs;

• promoting open and transparent public reporting of the operating conditions of fish farms and potential effects on fish health of wild Pacific salmon;

• integrating Indigenous knowledge and science to inform management approaches regarding fish farms’ operations;

• providing trusted information to community members of the First Nations on fish farms with the goal of promoting a better working relationship between the First Nations, the fish farm operators, and relevant federal and provincial agencies;

• providing First Nations standards for fish farms and mechanisms for compliance and enforcement;

• monitoring the decommissioning of the tenures during the orderly transition;

• monitoring and taking steps to avoid and mitigate any significant impacts of fish farms on wild Pacific salmon and other marine resources, including by sampling and testing wild Pacific salmon and other marine resources in proximity to fish farms according to standards collaboratively established that are acceptable to the First Nations;

• developing an independent advisory panel; and

• identifying opportunities, if any, for Mowi and Cermaq to support the First Nations’ activities to protect and restore wild Pacific salmon and other marine resources, and the ecosystems on which they rely.

(Image: Premier John Horgan addresses representatives from the ‘Namgis, the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations and B.C. salmon farming companies Cermaq Canada and Mowi Canada West to mark the progress made to protect wild salmon in the Broughton area)