BC meetings flag fish-farm “moves”

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The Canadian province of British Columbia appeared to be follow up on Tuesday on what it said late in October 2017 would be a “broader discussion” with angry indigenous about potentially moving salmon farms away from the Broughton Archipelago off northwest Vancouver Island.

Area fish farms grow over 40,000 tonnes of salmon, but the grow-outs are contested by the province’s First Nations people. B.C.’s Agriculture Minister suggested in October that moving farms in the area might be the way to end an ongoing tug-of-war between competing marine interests.

Marine Harvest’s farms were singled out by First Nations protestors, although Cermaq farms are more numerous in the Islands area. In November, both companies’ grow-outs had been “occupied”, with Marine Harvest Canada “hosting” protestors for two months before a court order allowed for their “eviction”.

Protest
Against the backdrop of protesters’ eviction from those farms, Federal Cabinet ministers and First Nations made a joint statement Tuesday evening that cited the protection of wild salmon and First Nations claims in the waterway.

“We have agreed to immediately embark on government-to-government discussions to address the issues and concerns about fish farms in the nations’ traditional territories, based on free, prior and informed consent,” the statement read, promising more “shared decision-making”. The aquaculture of large companies wasn’t mentioned, however the government negotiates on behalf of companies in matters relating to competing First Nations’ claims.

Read Marine Harvest’s B.C. backlog looks like buildup

Shared decision-making is already in place, however, with commercial salmon-farming generally having to await discussions between Federal Government negotiators and First Nations’ chiefs. For Chief Ernest Alfred, a traditional leader of the Namgis and others, Tuesday brought opportunity to amplify his competing claims.

“I want to say there will be no reconciliation in our territory as long as the fish farms are in our waters,” Alfred was quoted by the CBC as saying. The Namgis and other Five (First Nations) Bands of Broughton appear focused on those farms nearest their own seafood harvesting.

Relocation option
It is understood that Marine Harvest, First Nations, the province and representatives of Canada’s Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc will now begin a series of meetings.

“I think that in cooperation, we’re going to get to a place where there’s going to be agreement, whether it be re-siting some farms or perhaps farms not operating in certain areas where they used to before,” B.C. Agriculture Minister, Lana Popham, told the CBC in November.

“That’s a bigger conversation that we’re going to have.”