Aquaculture pioneers, the Kitasoo Xai'xais First Nation, is inviting the public to come see for themselves how modern salmon farming has transformed their remote community.

“We are wild salmon stewards and salmon farmers”

Aquaculture pioneers, the Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation, is inviting the public to come see for themselves how modern salmon farming has transformed their remote community.

By Fabian Dawson

Anti-salmon farming activists in British Columbia are world renowned for being able to spread misinformation, faster than you can fact-check their claims.

The groups, supported by wealthy urban donors, have recently intensified their fund-raising campaigns to kill the open-net salmon farming industry in BC, as the Federal Government works on a Transition Plan for the sector.

To combat the activist campaign, that threatens thousands of jobs in BC, the Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation, is inviting the public to come see for themselves how modern salmon farming has transformed their remote indigenous community.

“We would like to invite you to come visit our traditional territories of Kitasoo Xai’xais, where we are wild salmon stewards and salmon farmers. We invite you to come and see where we live and how we work,” stated the invitation posted on social media and signed by Isaiah Robinson, deputy chief councillor of the First Nation.

“When you arrive, we will introduce you to Indigenous scientists, show you our decades of aquaculture science data, and take you out on the waters we have fished for millennia and farmed for more than 40 years.

“We will introduce you to our young people and our elders who work on the farms and in our smokehouse to produce the smoked salmon that Canadian families can buy at Walmart stores across the country.

“The activists are misleading people on this conversation and it’s important that voices like yours see and hear the truth,” states the invitation.

The Kitasoo Xai’xais began farming and processing salmon independently in their waters in the late 1980s raising coho salmon. In 1998 the community formed a partnership with what is now Mowi Canada West, today, Mowi operates six salmon farms in Kitasoo Xai’xais territory with an average annual harvest of 5,000 tonnes of salmon.

Over 50 per cent of the Kitasoo Xai’xais’ revenue derives from their salmon farming partnership, all while conserving over 52 per cent of their territory through their Great Bear Sea and Rainforest initiatives and their recent creation of an Indigenous marine protected conservation area.

As pioneers in aquaculture, the Kitasoo Xai’xais have demonstrated how responsible salmon farming and commercial fisheries, like our spawn on kelp fishery can coexist with the protection of the region’s rich biodiversity, said Robinson, in an earlier interview with SeaWestNews.

“The Kitasoo Xai’xais’ story demonstrates that responsible salmon farming, commercial fisheries and marine conservation can go hand in hand, creating a sustainable future for both the environment and the local community,” he said.

The First Nation was recently awarded the prestigious Blue Park Award, for exceptional marine biodiversity conservation – a testament to the indigenous community’s stewardship of its traditional territories.

The award, a first for Canada, recognized the Indigenous community’s efforts to create a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Gitdisdzu Lugyeks, commonly known as Kitasu Bay, which is located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest in BC’s remote central coast.

The Kitasoo Xai’Xais is part of the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, which is fighting to retain its traditional rights to farm fish in its territorial waters, as the government considers renewing salmon farming licenses which expire this Spring pending the formulation of a Transition Plan for the sector in the province.

The coalition has released a ‘scientific textbook’ called Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review, aimed at closing the knowledge gaps about the industry and counter the campaign of disinformation by salmon farming opponents.

Salmon farming in BC directly and indirectly employs over 700 Indigenous people and provides $120 million in total annual direct and indirect economic benefits to First Nations, with $42 million going directly to Indigenous communities. Today, 100 per cent of BC’s farmed salmon is raised in agreement with Rights Holder First Nations. 

Taken as a whole, the entire sector generates over $1.142 billion of direct economic activity in BC annually supporting approximately 6,000 direct and indirect jobs.

In letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Coalition has reiterated its call for a six-year licence reissuance for the salmon farms in the traditional territories of its member nations, pending the transition process.

 “Our Nations have been working closely with DFO Minister Lebouthillier to ensure that this transition process respects First Nations rights, title, self-determination, economic autonomy, and our strength of claim regarding salmon farming in our waters,” the letter reads.

The coalition has said it is opposed to the federal government disregarding science and bowing to unfounded activist claims on salmon farming that, if heeded, “will severely damage our communities, and deny our rights and title.”

The Liberal government, at the behest of activists, has already shut down 40% of salmon farms in BC since 2020, despite a plethora of scientific studies and court rulings that state the marine operations have minimal impacts on migrating wild stocks.

(Image shows Isaiah Robinson, deputy chief councillor of the Kitasoo Xai’Xais First Nation)