Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship thanks fisheries minister for consultations

Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray tours a Mowi Canada West salmon farm on Oct. 14 where she was hosted by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations whose territory the farm is located in. (Supplied photo)Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray tours a Mowi Canada West salmon farm on Oct. 14 where she was hosted by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations whose territory the farm is located in. (Supplied photo)
Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray continues her tour of a Mowi Canada West salmon farm with the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations on Oct. 14. (Supplied photo)Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray continues her tour of a Mowi Canada West salmon farm with the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations on Oct. 14. (Supplied photo)
From left to right: Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition and Tlowitsis Nation, Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, Chief Chris Roberts of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, and Chief Ronnie Chickite of the We Wai Kai First Nation. (Supplied photo)From left to right: Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition and Tlowitsis Nation, Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray, Chief Chris Roberts of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, and Chief Ronnie Chickite of the We Wai Kai First Nation. (Supplied photo)

While some Vancouver Island First Nations are busy protesting the aquaculture industry, the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (the Coalition) is thanking Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray for her recent tour and consultations.

Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition, wrote a letter to Murray extending his gratitude to her and her team for taking the time to “visit some of our leaders and aquaculture operations within our territories across Vancouver Island” during the week of Oct. 11 to 14.

Smith noted that during Murray’s visit, she heard from more than a dozen hereditary and elected chiefs who are “fighting for their inherent right to host finfish farming as they see fit in their traditional marine spaces. The chiefs voiced their thoughts, concerns, and input regarding your ministry’s current engagement process for the transition away from open-net pen aquaculture in their waters.”

He added that although the chiefs working with the Coalition represent many diverse and unique communities, “they are united by their shared priorities of protecting wild salmon and asserting their self-determination, stewardship, rights, and title regarding finfish farming. It was critical to the chiefs that these values were strongly portrayed to you concerning finfish aquaculture operating in their territories. Also relayed to you was how it is your ministry’s responsibility to carry out the transition of farms in their waters in a way that respects those same values.”

During the meetings held on Oct. 12 and 14, Smith said the key messages heard from Murray regarding the process were as follows:

1. That the aim of her visit was to discuss next steps in the transitioning of the finfish aquaculture sector with nations who have an interest in the sector and to ask what can make this transition plan a successful one from their perspectives;

2. The approach is to develop a framework for that transition, not a plan, by 2023;

3. Existing operations need to adopt alternative technology that will progressively eliminate or minimize interactions between wild and farmed salmon;

4. The decision regarding farms in the territories of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose First Nations (referred to by DFO as the Discovery Islands) lacked adequate process in the decisions made by the previous fisheries minister; however, Murray considers the area a subset of DFO’s broader mandate and she maintains the previous minister’s decision while carrying out consultation with various communities;

5. That Murray respects traditional Indigenous knowledge and science as part of the consideration on how to manage wild salmon in our territories;

6. That Murray has admiration for the partnerships the nations have formed with finfish farming companies and now see how the sector has a strong respect for the nations’ input in their operations;

7. That Murray recognizes a lot has been done by the sector to improve since her involvement in the industry 18 years ago, but that there’s more to do, and this transition is about developing a plan to map out what further improvement will look like; and

8. Canada needs a framework and approach to this transition that challenges yet supports the industry in making improvements to protect wild salmon.

“While our visions for this transition process clearly differed from yours on many points during our meetings, one commonality we have between our peoples and your mandate is our passion to protect wild Pacific salmon,” Smith said. “As you said in one of our meetings, we all care about the fate of wild salmon in B.C., and we want to look back one day and say there was a turning point in their decline that we were a part of that. Our fate as coastal Indigenous peoples is tied to that of wild salmon, and we want to reiterate that we would not risk thousands of years of our successful traditional stewardship for short-term monetary gain.”

Smith concluded his letter to Murray by stating finfish farming is a progressive and advancing industry that, when done responsibly under our guidance and oversight, “can alleviate growing pressure on our wild salmon stocks. It can also support economic reconciliation for our Indigenous coastal, often remote communities. To reach these goals, however, we reiterate our call to extend the timeline of this transition consultation process, and that you include the farms within the territories of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose First Nations in the general transition process, as the Laich-kwil-tach chiefs requested. Working together with your government, the Government of British Columbia, and the sector on this crucial transition process, we can create an even stronger, more responsible finfish aquaculture industry that adds to the economic well being of our coastal communities and helps restore precious wild salmon stocks.”

RELATED: Vancouver Island First Nations worry fisheries minister is flip flopping on transition

RELATED: Land dispute breaks out at open house for proposed new fish farm site


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