BC goverment and First Nations to phase out 17 salmon farms in Canada

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New farm-free migration corridor to help reduce harm to wild salmon means that at least 17 sites in Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia, Canada, could be gone by 2023.

A government-to-government process has delivered recommendations that will protect and restore wild salmon stocks, allow an orderly transition plan for open-pen finfish for the Broughton Archipelago and create a more sustainable future for local communities and workers, according to the Office of the Premier in British Columbia.

The recommendations come out of a process undertaken by the Province and the ‘Namgis First Nation, the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations and Mamalilikulla First Nation, following a letter of understanding (LOU) regarding the future of finfish aquaculture in the Broughton. The recommendations have been agreed to by the two fish farm operators in the Broughton: Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq Canada.

The Broughton Archipelago is a group of remote islands and inlets near the northeast tip of Vancouver Island at the center of debate surrounding fish farms.

“Our governments have come together to help revitalize and protect wild salmon, and provide greater economic certainty for communities and local workers. These are the kinds of gains true reconciliation can deliver,” said Premier John Horgan. “The success of this process shows that when the provincial government and First Nations work together in the spirit of recognition and respect, taking into consideration the concerns of the federal government and industry, we can deliver results in the best interests of all who live and work here.”

“Our Nations, together with many British Columbians, have been raising serious concerns about this industry for decades. We are grateful that governments and industry are finally starting to listen and work with us to find solutions that aim to protect and restore wild salmon and other resources,” said Chief Robert Chamberlin, Elected Chief Councillor of the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and First Nations’ Chair of the steering committee. “There is much that still must be done, but these recommendations are a significant positive step in a better direction.”

  • The Province and the three First Nations endorse the recommendations, which:
    create an orderly transition of 17 farms, operated by Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq Canada, from the Broughton area between 2019 and 2023;
  • Establish a farm-free migration corridor in the Broughton in the short term to help reduce harm to wild salmon;
  • Develop a First Nations-led monitoring and inspection program to oversee those farms during the transition, which will include compliance requirements and corrective measures;
  • Implement new technologies to address environmental risks including sea lice;
    call for immediate action to enhance wild salmon habitat restoration and rehabilitation in the Broughton;
  • Confirm a willingness to work together to put into place the agreements and protocols necessary to implement the recommendations, including continued collaboration with the federal government; and
  • Secure economic development and employment opportunities by increasing support for First Nations implementation activities and industry transition opportunities outside the Broughton.
  • The Province, First Nations and industry are committed to working with the federal government to implement the recommendations.

“These recommendations show that we can implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and find respectful solutions in a timely manner,” Chamberlin said. “This process respected the need for Indigenous peoples’ consent and allowed us to work together to establish an orderly transition of the finfish farm tenures, while recognizing the needs of other governments, industry and local communities.”

On a tenure-by-tenure basis, the recommendations provide for an orderly transition of 17 fish-farm sites between 2019 and 2023. Some farms will be immediately decommissioned; some will remain in operations for various terms (two to four years). By the end 2022, 10 farms will have ceased operations. The remaining seven farms will cease operations, unless First Nations-industry agreements and valid Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) licences are in place by 2023.

“The process that was established was an incredible opportunity for all parties to work together to find a solution that could be accepted by all. I want to thank the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla Nations, as well as Cermaq and Marine Harvest, for working in good faith. I’m very proud of what was accomplished,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture.

The recommendations provide for a transition that allows industry to respond and provides an opportunity for transparent monitoring and oversite. Further, the recommendations include timeframes for both transition action and broader monitoring plans – proposed as January and March 2019, respectively.

The Province continues to engage in consultation on the tenures with other First Nations in the area who decided not to participate in the letter of understanding.

Diane Morrison, managing director, Marine Harvest said: “We approached these discussions seeking solutions that would both address the concerns of the First Nations and maintain our commitment to the well-being of our employees, support businesses and stakeholders. Going forward, we see the implementation of the recommendations as a positive step toward building mutual goodwill, trust, and respect as we work to earn First Nations consent of our operations in their Territories.”

David Kiemele, managing director, Cermaq Canada added: “We would like to thank the Broughton LOU steering committee for their openness to dialogue and we are pleased to move forward, together, in a way which will help to protect and enhance wild salmon populations and ensure the continued sustainable and responsible production of farmed salmon for generations to come. We are also committed to participating in the creation of the Indigenous monitoring and inspection program which establishes transparent oversight of our operations.”