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B.C. Indigenous coalition releases salmon-farm plan for their territories

Group in Ottawa lobbying for continuation of in-ocean aquaculture under First Nations guidance
Attending the Nov. 28 press conference to present an Indigenous-led finfish aquaculture transition framework are: Thomas Smith, Deputy Chief Isaiah Robinson, Dallas Smith, Chief Simon Tom, Brian Assu, and James Wallas. Photo contributed

A coalition of coastal B.C. First Nations released a plan for Indigenous-led, in-ocean salmon farming in their traditional territories, as the back-and-forth over the future of the practice continues.

The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) was in Ottawa this week to unveil a plan it says is responsible, realistic, and achievable, and will drive wild salmon revitalization, economic reconciliation, food security and affordability for their communities and all Canadians.

“As conservationists, our coastal Nations have travelled thousands of kilometres to Parliament Hill to present a solution to what’s been a divisive issue in B.C.,” Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the coalition, says in a press release.

“We have proven we can be both salmon stewards and salmon farmers in our sovereign territories, and by asserting our rights and title with this comprehensive plan, we fully intend to lead this process to achieve what’s best for our communities.”

The release states the plan ensures that the future of salmon farming in B.C. is led by the Nations in whose territories the farms operate, while retaining good, sustainable, year-round jobs and building economic and scientific capacity in Indigenous communities.

“Because of the work and dignity that comes with the salmon farming industry, we have had no suicides in my community of Klemtu for the past 18 years. Think about that,” says Isaiah Robinson, Deputy Chief Councillor for Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation, located 800 km north of Vancouver, on the Central Coast. “My community now has 99 per cent employment and 51% of our income comes from the salmon farming sector. It makes no sense to shut it down. There is no industry that can fill that space.”

“With new technology and best practices, and the guardianship and monitoring of our Nations, the salmon farming industry is even more modern than it was 10 or even five years ago. Salmon farmers have innovated far more quickly than any other industry I work with, and at our request,” adds Smith,

“But our Nations want to keep working with the industry to truly elevate the potential of our rich marine spaces. To do that, we need the government to also partner with us sit together at the table to implement this plan for modern, sustainable, in-ocean salmon farming that provides a realistic solution for our Nations.”

“If Canada is going to walk the talk on true reconciliation, I think every Canadian would agree that the future of modern salmon farming in BC must be shaped by the coastal First Nations in whose territories the farms are located.”

READ MORE: First Nations coalition urges Ottawa to stop closing salmon farms where they’re wanted

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