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First Nation finfish alliance releases review of pro-salmon-farming science

British Columbia Salmon Farming Association compiled the science review over the past year

An effort to fill in the gaps in information about salmon farming turned into a 500-page “textbook” on the industry that was launched on Friday, April 5 in Campbell River.

“Modern Salmon farming in british Columbia: A Review” was commissioned by the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (CFNFS) and other rightsholder First Nations that host salmon farming in their traditional territories. The document is intended to provide additional transparency and details of salmon farming operations to answer questions from Indigenous communities as the federal government’s transition for the sector nears.

“Last year, our leadership recognized during community meetings that there were some gaps in information in salmon farming and gaps that we asked the (aquaculture) companies to fill,” Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, said at the launch of the review held at the Tidemark Theatre in Campbell River. “By commissioning this review, Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia, we have created a solid start for First Nations with salmon farms to start owning and leading the science and research of farms in their territories.”

Communities on the coast of B.C. have diverse geographical conditions and there’s not one size fits all in approaches to industry or sector development within their territories, Smith said.

The release of this science compilation is timely for First Nations, the sector, and suppliers as federal fisheries minister Diane Lebouthillier is expected to announce the salmon farming licencing decision in BC later this spring as she meets her mandate to finalize a “responsible, realistic and achievable” Transition Plan for the sector by 2025.

“So, it’s taken this time to make independent transition plans,” Smith said. “But at the same time, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been doing their transition plan. And so we want to use this salmon farming Science Review as a foundation going forward for a government-to-government-to-government process as we make sure that no one gets left behind as we transition from the old industry into the new sector that provides all those benefits around food security, human wellbeing, economic wellbeing and social wellbeing to our communities.”

Smith said the document also enables Indigenous leadership to make better informed decisions for their communities, marine management plans and economic diversification “as original stewards since time immemorial.”

The British Columbia Salmon Farming Association compiled the science review over the past year for publishing online today. At the same time, the CFNFS has sent copies to dozens of First Nations across the province in the spirit of creating a Nation-to-Nation dialogue. Topics covered in the publication across 13 chapters include the current state of Pacific salmon, sea lice, fish health, benthic conditions, incidental catch, mammal interactions, and First Nations stewardship.

“While the development of this review has been a rigorous effort, it is important to show that we truly are committed to trust and transparency with, first and foremost, the First Nations in whose territories we operate, as well as the public and government decision-makers,” says Brian Kingzett, Executive Director of the BCSFA.

Not everyone was impressed with the document. Bob Chamberlin, chairman of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, said the document is “like marking your own homework, giving yourself an A-plus. No?”

Chamberlin referenced today’s press conference and image of Smith holding up the 500 page binder that comprises the review when he said, “I thought, well, we’ve provided DFO with, I think, three three-inch binders of science that shows the contrary position.” He said there have been numerous court rulings “scathing against DFO” as well as an auditor general’s report as well as Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans reports “critical of how DFO is managing this industry.”

Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review also expands on the importance of First Nations inclusion in the operations and data analysis of the sector, particularly in applying their traditional knowledge and oversight utilizing stewardship programs like Guardian Watchmen. Both the Coalition and the BCSFA are united in support of building Indigenous science capacity and the marriage of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with Western science methodology to provide a fulsome, holistic picture of what’s happening in the marine environment.

The BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) is an ISO-accredited lab in Campbell River whose governance is now Indigenous-led. BC CAHS is an independent non-profit that specializes in working with wild and farmed salmon and focuses on inclusive science with local First Nations. It will add its services to a new Indigenous Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences and Stewardship (iCAHS) planned on Wei Wai Kum territory.

The full report can be found at

Alistair Taylor

About the Author: Alistair Taylor

I have been editor of the Campbell River Mirror since 1989. Our team takes great pride in serving our community.
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