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 coming to hear what members had to say.
Coalition spokesperson Dallas Smith wrote a letter of gratitude to Murray for touring aquaculture operations within member territories across Vancouver Island between Oct. 11 to 14.
Smith said Murray heard from more than a dozen hereditary and elected chiefs “fighting for their inherent right to host finfish farming as they see fit in their traditional marine spaces.”
“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.”
Smith said the key messages heard from Murray regarding the process were:
1. That her aim 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 successful;
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 Discovery Islands lacked adequate process in the decisions made by the previous fisheries minister; however, Murray maintains that 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 sees 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.
“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.” Smith said. “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 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 while supporting economic reconciliation in Indigenous and often remote coastal communities.