First nation with Walmart contract warns land-based farming threatens jobs in remote communities

by
Editorial staff

“Post commercial fishery collapse in 1969 we had a 5 percent employment rate.”

In 2021, the small First Nation community of Kitasoo-Xai’xais signed a major deal with Walmart Canada to supply the company with its Klemtu Spirit smoked salmon across 330 stores.

The salmon used in the product comes from the six farms that Mowi Canada operates in the Klemtu area, and is smoked in an old fish processing plant that the Kitasoo-Xai’xais took over following the decline of the commercial Pacific salmon fishery.

Today, fish farming and processing is the main source of employment in Klemtu, generating more than 50 jobs for the community, one of the most remote salmon farming operations in British Columbia.

About half of the jobs that employ Kitasoo-Xai’xais now come from salmon farming or processing, Isaiah Robinson, a councillor for the Kitasoo-Xai’xais, said Friday in an interview with Canadian broadcaster Global News.

“Post commercial fishery collapse in 1969 we had a 5 percent employment rate. Now we have a 99 percent employment rate,” he said.

In 2020, the Canadian government announced the closure of 19 farms in the Discovery Islands, citing their impact on wild salmon populations.

Those opposed to net-pens proposed a green and novel alternative – land-based salmon farms. But this technology is not the panacea it is sometimes presented as, as Robinson pointed out.

“We are about 800km north of Vancouver so the original goal of land-based production is not feasible or possible. Anything like that would completely remove the industry from such a remote community,” Robinson told Global News. “Our goal has been to change the industry, to work with them and to work with the government to manage our environment in a sustainable way.”

The draft plan for the transition away from net pens commenced in August 2022 and was initially set for early summer release this year. So far has been quietly delayed by the office of the Canadian Minister of Fisheries leading the industry to hope that the government may finally be listening.

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