First Nation planning land-based salmon farm to replace netpens on Canada’s west coast

Editorial staff

Discovery Island-based First Nation is in active discussions with two companies specialising in sustainable land-based salmon farming.

The Tla’amin Nation, a self-governing modern treaty nation in British Columbia’s Qathet region, has outlined plans to establish land-based aquaculture on the grounds of the defunct Catalyst Paper Tis’kwat mill.

This landmark decision emerges in the wake of the Canadian government’s decision to ban netpen salmon farming in the Discovery Islands, an area encompassing traditional Tla’amin territory.

The Catalyst mill, which began its operations in 1912, became the first newsprint mill in western Canada. At its peak, one in 25 global newspapers were printed on paper produced at this facility. However, Paper Excellence, its parent company, announced the permanent closure of the mill’s operations in August this year.

“The Tla’amin Nation views this as a generational opportunity to address the toxic legacy of the mill and restore its role in the regional ecosystem as habitat for ǰɛnx’ (fish),” a spokesperson for the Nation told SalmonBusiness by email.

“The Tla’amin Nation was forcibly removed from their principal settlement of Tisk’at in the late 1880s. The river adjacent to the Tla’amin settlement was dammed, eradicating one of the richest salmon runs on the south coast of BC upon which the Tla’amin people relied.”

The Nation’s vision is a land-based aquaculture facility that can potentially replace the capacity of five open-pen fish farms, according to the statement seen by SalmonBusiness.

“Salmon was an important part of T’iskwat past and will be an integral part of T’iskwat’s future,” said Tla’amin Executive Councillor Erik Blaney.

The Nation is conducting a detailed environmental site assessment of the Catalyst Paper site to determine feasibility for aquaculture and is in active discussion with two companies specialising in sustainable land-based salmon farming, according to the statement.

Earlier this year, former Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray denied license renewals for Mowi, Cermaq, and Grieg’s salmon farms operating in the Discovery Islands. These licenses represented over 24 percent of BC’s salmon farming output, equivalent to roughly 20,000 metric tons.

In a recent joint statement with BC’s Qathet Regional District, the Tla’amin Nation emphasized that their modern treaty guarantees specific claims to the mill site. Formal negotiations with the Canadian government are already in progress.

Though the mill’s owners have acknowledged discussions with potential buyers, details remain under wraps.


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