First Nations Chiefs and Industry Leaders Push for Eradication of BC Salmon Farms by 2025

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On a recent Wednesday, an alliance of First Nations chiefs, commercial fishing industry magnates, and tourism association leaders collectively appealed for the federal government to hasten the progression of a plan. The goal of the plan? To gradually eradicate open-net pen salmon farms off the British Columbia coastline by 2025.

Wild salmon have been a sustenance staple for thousands of years, not just for First Nations on the coast and the Interior, but also for the commercial fishing industry, a cornerstone of B.C.’s economy since the era of European contact.

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At the heart of the assembly, Chief Robert Joseph of the Gwawaenuk First Nation raised a unified voice of concern. “The operations of open-net fish farms pose a direct threat to the survival of our wild salmon,” he stated. “It’s vital now, more than ever, that we articulate our need to safeguard the existence of wild salmon.”

A compelling stance backed by over 120 B.C. nations, aligned under the banner of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, fervently advocates for ending open-net pen salmon farming. Their belief leans heavily on the assumption that these farms are catalysts for the infectious spread of diseases and parasites amongst an already struggling wild salmon population.

“To our great lament, we’ve had to resort to purchasing Alaskan salmon,” admitted Chief Arnie Lampreau of the Shackan First Nation. “A grim reality indeed, that we must buy our fish now. Never did I foresee such a scenario in my lifetime.”

However, not everyone echoes these sentiments. An opposing statement from the BC Salmon Farmers Association denies the claims that farming operations contribute to the dwindling numbers in salmon populations. The association further claims to maintain a mutually respectful partnership with local First Nations in the territories where the salmon farms operate.

A similar sentiment reverberated in a statement from the Coalition of First Nations for Finship Stewardship. They emphasize that First Nations should be free to dictate the economic pathways within their territories without government intervention, a principle adhered to by other coastal Nations since immemorial times.

In an interesting related development, Joyce Murray, the former Fisheries Minister, announced in February 2022 that 15 open-net Atlantic salmon farms in the Discovery Islands near Campbell River would not have their licenses renewed. The primary concern was that the area served as a crucial migratory route for wild salmon.

This decision, however, has been legally contested by a trio of fish farm companies and the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations.

Meanwhile, as the discord continues, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans assures its commitment to consulting all stakeholders. “Fisheries and Oceans Canada continues to engage with our partners and stakeholders on the development of a responsible plan to transition from open-net pen salmon farming in British Columbia by 2025. The consultation process is ongoing,” the department confirmed in a recent statement.