Marine Harvest could lose one of its BC licenses, due to First Nation opposition

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Marine Harvest may not have the license for its Port Elizabeth salmon farm renewed when it expires in 2018, due to objections by local First Nations.

Premier John Horgan of British Columbia, Canada, said this during a press briefing on October 18, reports Business Vancouver.

Horgan was responding to questions about a letter his minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham, sent to Marine Harvest last week.

Since August 25, First Nations have occupied a number of Marine Harvest’s fish farms. The First Nations in the area of the Broughton Archipelago, where the fish farms are located, say the company does not have their permission to operate.

Marine Harvest ended up bringing in the Military Police on October 13 when restocking its Port Elizabeth fish farm, for fear of being blockaded.

Migratory routes for salmon
All salmon farm licenses are going to be subject to review, Horgan said, according to guidelines and principles set out in the Cohen Commission and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“We are going to be reviewing licenses to ensure that migratory routes for wild salmon are clear of obstacles to making their way either out to sea or back to spawn,” Horgan said.

He referred to one of the recommendations made by the Cohen Commission to locate salmon farms away from migratory routes of wild salmon, as a precautionary measure, due to concerns about disease and sea lice spreading from fish farms to wild stocks.

Economic activity
Salmon farming generates $1.5 billion in economic activity in B.C. and directly employs 3,000 people, according to an economic analysis released last month by the BC Salmon Farmers Association. Marine Harvest has operated in B.C. for three decades.

“It’s known to almost everyone in the universe that open net pen fish farming in British Columbia has been controversial for decades,” Horgan said. “But I believe that we can find a way to make sure that we’re serving the mutual objectives of keeping economic activity going as well protecting our wild fish.”

Land-based farm up for sale
Horgan suggested that the way forward is land-based closed containment systems, not ocean-based open-net fish farms. He pointed to the Kuttera fish farm in Alert Bay as a model.

Marine Harvest spokesman Ian Roberts, also present at the press conference, wondered why the Namgis First Nation, the owner and sole shareholder, is trying to sell Kuttera, if that model is economically viable.

“We all know that Kuttera is up for sale and there are no buyers.”

Roberts added Kuttera offered to sell the closed containment operation to Marine Harvest. He said Marine Harvest has no interest in buying it.

“It’s not a money-maker. If closed containment was a winner, we would set it up near the big markets of San Francisco and L.A. You wouldn’t be growing salmon in the northern part of Vancouver Island.”