First Nation Group in consultation with DFO, calling to revoke salmon farm licences “immediately”

Political executives of the BC Assembly of First Nations call for use of Precautionary Principle in Discovery Islands.

In a statement, the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) writes that Nations in the Discovery Islands, BC, Canada, are in consultation with DFO regarding fish farms in their territories, and are calling on the department responsible to immediately revoke salmon farm licences.

This is ahead of Canada’s fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan’s official decision expected sometime this month on the matter, which will be to either renew or revoke 18 salmon farm licences which are set to expire in December.

Read more: DFO: Discovery Islands fish farms pose a minimal risk to wild salmon, but licenses may still not be renewed

The First Nations Leadership Council is comprised of the political executives of the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), First Nations Summit (FNS), and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). The group highlighted “historic low returns of Pacific wild salmon this year” for the immediate revokation.

Map of the Discovery Islands region showing place names, rivers, salmon farms from Cermaq, Mowi and Grieg. MAP: Modelling Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus Dispersion from Marine Salmon Farms in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia, Canada (Researchgate -Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International)

In September, SB reported on the long-term report called the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River which came up with 75 recommendations contained to “address the health and long-term sustainability of Fraser River sockeye salmon stocks”. The results of these assessments concluded that the transfer of these pathogens “pose a minimal risk to abundance and diversity of migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon in the area.”

However, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, BC Assembly of First Nations, stated: “From the Cohen Commission, we already know that there is no singular threat that explains the decline of Pacific salmon”. The FNLC supports a shift to land-based aquaculture.

“The inherent Indigenous rights to self-determination, recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and consistently upheld through Supreme Court Case decisions, must be respected and applied. Consistent with the application of the Precautionary Principle, the FNLC is calling on DFO to listen to the impacted First Nations and to do everything possible to save wild salmon,” wrote the group.

On the other side of the debate, last month, an independent report sponsored by the trade organisation the BC Salmon Farmers Association indicated that industry has the potential to stimulate CAD 44 billion in new economic output by 2050. Representatives from Tla-o-qui-aht, Kitasoo/Xai’Xais, Ahousaht and Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nations contributed to the report, highlighting links with Mowi Canada West.

On the FNLC statement, a Mowi Canada West spokesperson told local news site Coast Mountain News: “Out of respect for the local First Nations and the government-to-government process underway we will not be commenting on the Discovery Islands farms or today’s statement”.