Dear Minister Murray,
NUU-CHAH-NULTH, LAICH-KWIL-TACH, AND KWAKWAKA’WAKW TERRITORIES – The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (the Coalition) would like to extend its gratitude to you and your team for taking the time to visit some of our leaders and aquaculture operations within our territories across Vancouver Island during the week of Oct. 11 to 14.
During your visit you heard from more than a dozen hereditary and elected Chiefs who are fighting for their inherent right to host finfish farming as they see fit in their traditional marine spaces. The Chiefs voiced their thoughts, concerns, and input regarding your ministry’s current engagement process for the transition away from open-net pen aquaculture in their waters.
Although the Chiefs working with our Coalition represent many diverse and unique communities, they are united by their shared priorities of protecting wild salmon and asserting their self-determination, stewardship, rights, and title regarding finfish farming. It was critical to the Chiefs that these values were strongly portrayed to you concerning finfish aquaculture operating in their territories. Also relayed to you was how it is your ministry’s responsibility to carry out the transition of farms in their waters in a way that respects those same values.
In our meetings Oct. 12 and 14, the key messages we heard from you regarding this process were that:
- The aim of your visit was to discuss next steps in the transitioning of the finfish aquaculture sector with Nations who have an interest in the sector and to ask what can make this transition plan a successful one from our perspectives.
- This approach is to develop a framework for that transition, not a plan, by 2023.
- Existing operations need to adopt alternative technology that will progressively eliminate or minimize interactions between wild and farmed salmon.
- The decision regarding farms in the territories of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose First Nations (referred to by DFO as the Discovery Islands) lacked adequate process in the decisions made by the previous Fisheries Minister; however, you consider the area a subset of DFO’s broader mandate and you maintain the previous minister’s decision while carrying out consultation with
- You respect traditional Indigenous knowledge and science as part of our consideration on how to manage wild salmon in our territories.
- You have admiration for the partnerships our Nations have formed with finfish farming companies and now see how the sector has a strong respect for our Nations’ input in their operations.
- You recognize a lot has been done by the sector to improve since your involvement in the industry 18 years ago, but that there’s more to do, and this transition is about developing a plan to map out what further improvement will look like, and;
- Canada needs a framework and approach to this transition that challenges yet supports the industry in making improvements to protect wild salmon.
While our visions for this transition process clearly differed from yours on many points during our meetings, one commonality we have between our Peoples and your mandate is our passion to protect wild Pacific salmon.
As you said in one of our meetings, we all care about the fate of wild salmon in BC, and we want to look back one day and say there was a turning point in their decline that we were a part of that. Our fate as coastal Indigenous Peoples is tied to that of wild salmon, and we want to reiterate that we would not risk thousands of years of our successful traditional stewardship for short-term monetary gain.
We know finfish farming is a progressive and advancing industry that, when done responsibly under our guidance and oversight, can alleviate growing pressure on our wild salmon stocks. It can also support economic reconciliation for our Indigenous coastal, often remote communities. To reach these goals, however, we reiterate our call to extend the timeline of this transition consultation process, and that you include the farms within the territories of the Laich-kwil-tach and Klahoose First Nations in the general transition process, as the Laich-kwil-tach Chiefs requested.
Working together with your government, the Government of British Columbia, and the sector on this crucial transition process, we can create an even stronger, more responsible finfish aquaculture industry that adds to the economic well being of our coastal communities and helps restore precious wild salmon stocks.
Spokesperson for the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship