First Nations get veto over BC salmon farm sites
SALMON farmers in British Columbia will require First Nations consent over tenures, in new rules announced last month.
The effective veto granted to indigenous communities goes well beyond existing leg- islation that requires farm companies to consult First Nations groups over farm sites on their lands.
The new requirements establish key criteria for tenures past 2022.
‘The challenges facing our wild salmon have been ignored for far too long,’ said Lana Popham, BC agriculture minister and an outspoken opponent of salmon farming.
‘That’s why we are putting in place a new approach to provide clarity and outline our expectations moving forward for a sustainable industry that protects wild salmon, embraces reconciliation, and provides good jobs.’
The province of BC will grant Land Act tenures only to fish farm operators who have satisfied Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) that their operations will not adversely impact wild salmon stocks, and who have negotiated agreements with the First Nations in whose territory they propose to operate.
A court ruling in 2009 clarified that the federal government had the exclusive jurisdiction for regulating fisheries, including fish farms.
The year 2022 aligns with the current renew- al date of the majority of licences issued by the DFO. Operations with expired provincial tenures, or tenures that expire before June 2022, may operate with month-to-month tenures.
In addition to aligning with the expiry date of the majority of federal fish licences, the Province will give notice of the change in expectations to fish farm operators.
This will give them time to adapt their operations to DFO requirements, strengthen their relationships with First Nations, and make investment decisions.
Meanwhile, discussions are continuing, to resolve concerns regarding specific farms in the Broughton Archipelago.
Not all indigenous communities are against salmon farms. Marine Harvest has 15 formal agreements with BC First Nations, some going back 20 years.
‘Marine Harvest has a 20-year track record of building partnerships with First Nations on BC’s coast and will continue to work respectfully and in a positive manner,’ said Vincent Erenst, Marine Harvest Canada managing director.
Farm raised salmon generates more than $1.5 billion towards the BC economy and over 6,600 jobs. About 20 per cent of the people working directly for salmon farm companies are First Nations.
Above: Fish farm in British Columbia