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Sidney’s Cascadia Seaweed partners with Tsawout First Nation on James Island farm

Operation aims to help restore surrounding ecology, boost Tsawout economic stability
Crews at Cascadia Seaweed pull in a harvest. The Sidney-based company recently received a license from Tsawout First Nation to establish a farm off James Island. (Photo supplied by Cascadia Seaweed)

A local First Nation and Sidney-based company have partnered to grow seaweed close to home.

Tsawout First Nation has issued a license to allow Cascadia Seaweed to farm seaweed off James Island. Crews are currently preparing to seed the area later this year.

Chrissy Chen, fisheries manager for Tsawout First Nation, said Cascadia was chosen because they offered the “greenest of the green projects” Tsawout wants to pursue.

“We are Indigenous People, we are out to conserve and protect and why not have a wonderful company like this to support us and do a joint venture with them?” she said.

The farm, covering an area 165 metres by 330 metres, will be located halfway up the island just off its western shore facing the Saanich Peninsula.

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Cascadia co-founder Tony Ethier said the company is pleased to be installing a farm close to its Sidney head office – it also operates farms in Barkley Sound in partnership with local First Nations – under the governing authority of the Tsawout First Nation.

“Generating new economic opportunities for Indigenous coastal communities is a key part of our business model, and we are pleased that Tsawout have recognized the environmental, economic and social benefits of seaweed cultivation,” Ethier said.

The farm will give both partners a chance to assess the potential of the location, with an eye toward future expansion, Chen said. “We can be partners for a long, long time, if they want to. We can proceed and do additional farms as well.”

Not only have a number of Tsawout First Nation members been hired for the farm, the operation is a key part of the Nation’s strategy to help restore the surrounding ecology, she said.

“It is going to be beneficial for salmon,” Chen noted, adding the Tsawout are also working on measures to help restore the estuary of Tetayut Creek draining.

Ultimately, Chen expects seaweed production to play a big role in the economic future of her Nation.

“It’s going to be huge. This is the start of many different kind of algae that we are going to be growing.”

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The farm license was issued under Tsawout First Nation Marine Use Law, itself premised on a series of court rulings concerning Indigenous self-government and usage rights, and more broadly on the Douglas Treaties signed in the 1850s.

Cascadia’s partnership with Tsawout First Nation is part of the two-year-old company’s expansion strategies into the seaweed market.

Mike Williamson, founding partner and chief executive officer, spoke earlier this month at the Conference of Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow, attended by signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The seaweed industry is promoted by advocates as one that regenerates ecosystems, stores carbon and helps meet global food needs in the face of changing climatic conditions for terrestrial agriculture.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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