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

Coastal group says rights and title, food affordability and jobs impacted, want minister replaced

A coalition of coastal First Nations is in Ottawa this week to meet with federal decision-makers about the importance of a sustainable salmon farming industry in B.C.

Leaders of the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) are also there to emphasize the negative impact removing salmon farms will have on Indigenous rights and title, food security, affordability, jobs, and reconciliation in rural coastal communities.

Members are united in their disappointment with the recent decision by federal Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray to not respect the authority of the Laich-kwil-tach First Nations in the Discovery Islands to decide if, when, or how they want to operate sustainable, finfish aquaculture in their traditional waters.

In a press release, the coalition called for Murray to be replaced

“After the disrespectful and damaging decision to close salmon farms in my territory…we as a coalition can no longer trust that Minister Murray can deliver a thoughtful, unbiased transition plan for the remaining salmon farms,” Chris Roberts, Chief Councillor of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation said.

“It makes no sense that the Government of Canada is trying to shut down any sustainable salmon farming supported by Nations when DFO’s own science says just that – it is sustainable,” Roberts continued. “We are the original environmentalists, not the fancy downtown activists. We have stewarded wild salmon for thousands of years, and our guardians and monitors continue to protect it.

Forty per-cent of salmon farms have already been removed from B.C. waters to date, and the coalition says the result has bdamaged the economy of coastal communities. It has also caused an increased cost of farmed salmon to Canadian families, and created a bigger carbon imprint from flying farmed salmon in from countries like Norway and Chile.

“We are very worried, and Canadians should be worried too. Minister Murray is on a path to reduce or eliminate salmon farming in Canada,” says Isaiah Robinson, Councillor of the Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation. “Canadians in any resource industry would resent their jobs being wiped out by the bias of one Minister in Ottawa, especially when there are no new jobs in their communities to replace them.”

“Like other Canadians, we want our people to have good jobs. And like other Canadians, we want families to be able to afford healthy food. These government policies are making salmon more expensive for everyone,” Robinson said.

As other groups call on Murray to force all salmon farms to be built on land, the coalition says recent feasibility reports have reaffirmed large-scale land-based salmon farming is not yet viable economically or technologically.

“Land-based is not possible in these Nations’ territories. The B.C. government conducted its own feasibility study on whether it is viable, and it is not,” says Albert Charlie, Hereditary Chief and Councillor of the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation. “Forcing First Nations to ‘transition’ to land-based technology that isn’t ready means they will lose the industry completely and their communities will be devastated.”

The coalition understands that other Nations want a different path for salmon farming, and some are also currently in Ottawa to put forward their input on the transition of the salmon farming sector.

“We invite our fellow Nations to sit down together on this issue, Nation-to-Nation, while visiting the territory of the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation,” says Hereditary Chief Harvey Robinson of the Kitasoo Xai’xais.

“Let’s listen to one another – and respect one another, we all want to do what’s best for our own territories.”

READ MORE:North Island First Nations reject continued fish farming in the Broughton Archipelago

READ MORE: Fisheries Department confirms closure of 15 Discovery Islands salmon farms

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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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