First Nations for Finfish Stewardship

Salmon farming is a path to self-determination and reconciliation for many First Nations in coastal BC.

The coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) has united over a shared concern that their rights to make economic decisions for their territories are being ignored. These Nations call on the Federal Government to immediately reissue the salmon farming licences in their territories.

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Seventeen First Nations have negotiated agreements with one or more producer companies that are operating within their territories. Respect, reconciliation, and recognition of First Nations governance, territory, and their position as rightsholders are central to protocol agreements. Most agreements address operational plans, environmental stewardship, wild salmon protection and enhancement, economic development opportunities, profit sharing, employment, and emerging business opportunities.

Every First Nation is taking their own approach to these relationships some are in favour of industry and others have decided not to have salmon farms in their territories. Not all Nations with agreements are shown in this map.

Our Side of the Salmon Farming Story

Many Canadians have been led to believe that all BC First Nations are actively opposed to salmon farming, but this is not the reality. Seventeen First Nations have a variety of relationship agreements with finfish aquaculture companies, with the longest going back over two decades. Altogether, these Nations’ territories make up most of the south coast of British Columbia.

In addition to the misconception around our opposition to salmon farming:

1

Arbitrary Decisions by the Federal Fisheries Minister Goes Against First Nations Rights, Title, and Reconciliation

The coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) is deeply opposed to the Federal Government disregarding science and bowing to
unfounded activist claims, discussing plans that could remove salmon farms from these Nations’ territories. These actions are not respecting
the rights and titles of First Nations, and go against the fundamental principles of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that the Federal Government has ascribed to through Bill C15, and the British Columbia Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA). This goes against the Federal Government’s commitment to reconciliation and the rights of Indigenous peoples and their recent promise to support the participation of First Nations in the management of ocean resources, including fisheries and aquaculture.

2

First Nations are Committed to Environmental Stewardship and Restoration in Their Territories

The protection of wild salmon is a priority for coastal First Nations, who would not put centuries of stewardship at risk for short-term gains.
The oversight of farms in their territories and transparency from the sector are key to protecting wild salmon and the marine sources within their territories. In many cases where there are agreements with companies, Indigenous guardians monitor farm sites and independent biologists ensure that the production is done according to sustainable principles negotiated with companies. Companies are held accountable for their actions. As well, often at the request and direction of the
Nations, producer companies are committing to constant improvement of their practices through technology and innovation.

3

Aquaculture can Contribute to Self-Determination by Lifting Communities from Dependency and Poverty

Seventeen First Nations have negotiated agreements with one or more producer companies that are operating within their territories. Respect, reconciliation, and recognition of First Nations governance, territory, and their position as rightsholders are central to protocol agreements. Most agreements address operational plans, environmental stewardship, wild salmon protection and enhancement, economic development opportunities, profit sharing, employment, and emerging business opportunities.

Read Dallas Smith's OpEd in The Orca:

What Salmon Farming Means to First Nation Communities

In total, BC’s farmed salmon sector is estimated to generate $29.2 million in economic activity within First Nations, $16.7 million in GDP, and 247 jobs earning $12.8 million in wages per year. Further benefits are generated outside of First Nations communities, amounting to $54.2 million in economic activity, $31 million in GDP, and $23.8 million in wages for 460 workers. Some of these benefits accrue to First Nations members living outside their communities.

17

First Nations with formal agreements

276

Employees that identify as Indigenous

21

Contracts with Indigenous-owned businesses and suppliers

$11.5

Million payroll for Indigenous employees

$24

Million total spend on Indigenous-owned businesses

$12.1

Million financial support via protocol/benefit agreements

$2.4

Million annual support outside agreements

$50

Million total direct economic benefit

As relationships with the farmed salmon sector continue to strengthen and diversify, the ability for First Nations to keep these economic benefits
within their communities will increase.

Within First Nation Communities (est)
Outside Communities (est)
Total
Number of FTE Jobs
247
460
707
Wages ($ Millions)
$12.8
$23.8
$36.6
Additional Economic Activity ($ Millions)
$29.2
$54.2
$83.3
GDP ($ Millions)
$16.7
$31.0
$47.8
Total Economic Benefit for First Nations ($ Millions)
$42.0
$78.0
$120.0

What Salmon Farming Means to First Nation Communities

In total, BC’s farmed salmon sector is estimated to generate $29.2 million in economic activity within First Nations, $16.7 million in GDP, and 247 jobs earning $12.8 million in wages per year. Further benefits are generated outside of First Nations communities, amounting to $54.2 million in economic activity, $31 million in GDP, and $23.8 million in wages for 460 workers. Some of these benefits accrue to First Nations members living outside their communities.

17

First Nations with formal agreements

276

Employees that identify as Indigenous

21

Contracts with Indigenous-owned businesses and suppliers

$11.5

Million payroll for Indigenous employees

$24

Million total spend on Indigenous-owned businesses

$12.1

Million financial support via protocol/benefit agreements

$2.4

Million annual support outside agreements

$50

Million total direct economic benefit

Testimonials

Terry Walkus, Chief, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation

Albert Charlie, Coucillor, Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation

Isaiah Robinson, Elected Councillor, Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation

Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation – Fisheries/Aquaculture Announcement

Our Call to Action

The First Nations for Finfish Stewardship coalition calls on Federal Fisheries Minister to respect their jurisdictions and not take actions that would remove salmon farms from their territories.

Rights and title set First Nations apart from stakeholders in decisions regarding salmon farming, or other resource-based activities in their territories. The Nations in the coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship retain jurisdiction over their lands, waters, resources, and interests through unextinguished Aboriginal title.

The voices of the coalition’s leaders are not being heard by the Fisheries Minister, and when heard, are not being counted. If these Nations’ governments and communities have agreed to support the salmon farming sector in their territories, then it goes against the Federal Government’s commitment to reconciliation and the rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as their recent promise to support the participation of First Nations in the management of ocean resources, including fisheries and aquaculture.

By June 2022, the chiefs and leaders of this coalition will expect the Federal Government to reissue the licences of salmon farms in the territories of the Nations who wish to continue pursuing relationships with the sector.

While activists don’t tend to respect the rights and title of First Nations who don’t align with their agendas, the federal and provincial governments have the opportunity to see these licence re-issuances as a path forward to partnership, prosperity, self-determination, and the health and future wellness of Indigenous communities. The leaders of this coalition urge politicians not to listen to the misinformed, often urban and far-removed, minority and respect the rights of First Nations to govern in their territories as they need.

This is a historic opportunity for government to truly realize reconciliation and the sovereignty and rights of First Nations in Canada; Nations that – when meaningfully supported — can lead Canada’s Blue Economy, drive new investment into their coastal communities, and help their economies recover from the pandemic. This coalition calls on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to renew the operating licences of salmon farms in their territories in 2022, with a length of term that supports business and investor confidence, so that these Nations, government, and the sector can build a successful, inclusive, and
respectful transition plan for 2025.

Reissuing these licences with a minimum six-year term gives First Nations working with salmon farming the time to properly engage with their communities, government-to-government, and with the sector on 18 2025 aquaculture transition plans. There must be room for each plan to be unique and tailored to individual Nations’ values, socio-economic priorities, regional characteristics, and environmental conditions.

Due to rapidly changing climatic and oceans conditions, each Nation’s plan will be distinctive in its environmental stewardship and food security approaches. These re-issuances will also clear the path for the Province of British Columbia to renew the tenures on which the farms operate.

While it isn’t clear what the federal government’s definition of ‘transitioning’ the sector is, this coalition is firm that it should not mean reducing or taking away salmon farming in their territories because that would take away from First Nations communities and families. Indigenous peoples have been managing the ocean and its resources for millennia. The federal government should be working with these coastal Nations and their traditional knowledge to define what transition means to them in their territories.

This coalition expects any transition plans to be built on the true intent of reconciliation; to represent the Nations’ autonomous yet connected voices; to respect rights and title; and to deliver positive outcomes for Indigenous communities, for their territories’ unique ecosystems, and all of coastal British Columbia.

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© 2022 Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship