Three First Nations want the plug pulled permanently on the remaining fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago.
The ‘Namgis, Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis, and Mamalilikulla First Nations (the “Broughton First Nations”) issued a strongly worded statement that they do not consent to the continued operation of any fish farms in the collection of islands off northeastern Vancoouver Island, or anywhere in their respective territories.
“The Broughton First Nations have decided not to provide the written agreements to Mowi Canada West Inc. (“Mowi”) and Cermaq Canada Ltd. (“Cermaq”), that are required for them to continue to operate seven remaining fish farms located in our territories in the Broughton Archipelago,” the statement reads.
It was back in 2018 when the Broughton First Nations and the province agreed to an orderly transition of 17 fish farms from the archipelago after a long occupation by the nations’ members.
“As part of that agreement, 10 fish farms were closed by 2022, and the Broughton First Nations were to decide the fate of the remaining seven during the final years of the transition,” reads the statement.
According to the release, the Broughton First Nations decided the fate of the last seven fish farms after dialogue with both Mowi and Cermaq, and Mowi and Cermaq agreed to respect the decision.
“Our laws, customs, and traditions require us to act in a precautionary manner, to respect, and protect our marine territories and way of life,” the release states. “We, the Broughton First Nations have long held concerns about the locations and operations of fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago, especially in relation to the threats facing wild salmon.”
As such, the nations ultimately decided that by applying their own Indigenous laws, and the precautionary principle, they would not be providing any written agreement for the continued operation of any of Mowi or Cermaq’s fish farms in their respective territories.
“In making our decisions, we have taken a precautionary approach to supporting the recovery of wild salmon, and the marine ecosystems in our respective territories,” says the statement. “The Broughton First Nations now intend to work with Mowi, Cermaq, and the province, on the decommissioning process for these fish farms.”
Mamalilikulla Hereditary and Elected Chief Winidi (Chief John Powell) said this was an important decision for his people, and for wild salmon.
“For over 30 years we have been raising concerns about these fish farms in our respective territories. To have our decision-making authority recognized on an issue of such importance to us, and to all of British Columbia is very meaningful.”
Homiskanis (Chief Don Svanvik), Hereditary and Elected Chief of the ‘Namgis First Nation who reside on Cormorant Island, noted the nations appreciate the role played by the province to recognize Indigneous decision-making authority.
“We have never consented to the operation of these fish farms, and we see this as a step in recognizing the need for consent-based decision-making when it comes to matters that impact our territories and our way of life,” he said. “We also commend Mowi and Cermaq for respectfully and actively working with us through this process. They have shown a real commitment to supporting and respecting our decision-making.”
Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis Hereditary and Elected Chief Tlakuglus (Chief Rick Johnson) said the nation has been witnessing a devastating decline and collapse of wild salmon and other marine species in its territories.
“We are working very hard to restore wild salmon populations and ecosystems in the Broughton Archipelago, and these decisions mark another important step in the effort to protect these precious fish.”