Representatives from a coalition of British Columbia First Nations travelled to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, this week to plead their case to the federal government for the renewal of 79 salmon farming licences that are set to expire in June.
“As the original stewards of Canada’s coastal waters for millennia, we are calling on you to re-issue salmon farming licences in the territories of the Nations who want to pursue it,” the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS) said in a statement released on social media.
The group reiterated its call for the “federal government to re-issue all the salmon licences in our territories in 2022,” reminding officials of the “many benefits that salmon farming brings to Indigenous communities.”
“As the rights and title holders of our territories, what the future of salmon farming looks like should be up to us,” FNFFS stated, criticizing the Canadian government for failing to consult the group on the “re-issuance of licences or any transition plans for the sector in our respective marine space.”
“This very lack of understanding would lead to the loss of farms in our territories and the benefits that come with them,” FNFFS warned, having previously released an economic report that highlighted the financial benefits of the continued existence of salmon farms in their territories.
A recently released report found outlined how British Columbia communities would lose 4,700 jobs and, as much as, $1.2 billion in economic activity per year if all 79 farming licences are not renewed. The primary economic benefits from salmon farming to First Nations in coastal BC are $50 million.
When indirect and induced economic activity is factored in First Nation interests in BC’s farmed salmon sector on and off reserves are estimated to generate $83.3 million in economic activity, $47.8 million in GDP, and 707 jobs earning $36.6 million in wages per year, FNFFS claimed.
79 salmon farming licences are set to expire on June 30, with the federal government having not yet made a formal decision on their future, as the country moves to phase out British Columbia salmon farms as part of a transition to open net salmon farms on the west coast.
The Canadian government has, so far, closed around a quarter of the salmon farms in British Columbia, refusing to renew licences for 19 sites in the Discovery Islands. The Discovery Islands was previously identified by the Cohen Commission of causing a bottleneck for wild salmon migration routes, resulting in a recommendation that the fish farms in the area should be removed unless the fisheries minister could be satisfied that they posed no more than a minimal risk to wild salmon.
The ministry’s own scientists did find that the farms posed no more than a minimal risk but, despite that advice, the Trudeau government ordered the closure of the farms anyway.