Skip to content

Council of Canadians disappointed in BC government’s decision to extend fish farm tenures

In November 2017, the Comox Valley chapter traveled to Midsummer Island in the Broughton Archipelago to express this message of solidarity with the wild salmon defenders of the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, ‘Namgis, Mamalilikala and Lawit’sis First Nations.

The Council of Canadians is expressing disappointment in the timidity of the British Columbia government’s decision on fish farm tenures today.

The CBC reports, “Under the new regulations [announced by the BC government], all fish farms will have to meet two criteria when their tenures come up for renewal or when they apply for a new tenure. First, any applications will have to demonstrate they have agreements in place with First Nation in whose territories they propose to operate. …They must also satisfy the federal government their operations will not impact wild salmon stocks. …In the meantime, the B.C. government will renew those tenures on a month-to-month basis [until 2022 when their federal licences expire].”

The article adds, “The announcement comes on the same day the tenures for 20 controversial fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago expire. Those farms will remain outside the new framework while government-to-government discussion about them continue.” The government’s media release highlights, “The Province and Broughton-area First Nations are continuing discussions, which began Jan. 30, 2018, to resolve concerns regarding specific farms in the Broughton Archipelago. This announcement does not pre-determine the outcome of those discussions.”

The Council of Canadians Comox Valley chapter says, “This is not the time to be cautious, and this was a cautious decision. The Province could have seriously challenged the industry bias of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and used its licensing power to force the DFO to reconsider its responsibility for wild salmon. Rather they appear to have simply set the stage for a 4 year battle that’s weighted on the industry side. It is also time to be bold about putting UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into action. This decision says that maybe some future government should do that.”

Other reactions

Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, says, “I believe the four-year time frame is four years too late. …What I am pleased with is we now have a government that recognizes the value of wild salmon, not just to First Nations people but to the economy of British Columbia. …We are working very hard with this government because they have made this commitment to implement UNDRIP.”

This morning, Alexandra Morton commented, “After everything, government won’t move a single farm… I am in mourning for this coast…” She then added, “[Recognition of UNDRIP is] a good thing! But it’s all words.” Later in the day, Morton noted, “The early reports left out a very important component! The nation-to-nation discussions in the Musgamagw territory, Broughton, are ongoing, the fate of those farms remains in question, and the 4-year transition time period applies only to the rest of BC!”

On that latter point, Pacific Wild tweeted, “On the surface, today’s @BCNDP announcement regarding fish farm tenure status appears hollow. However, there is a flash of silver hope in these murky waters; discussions between the NDP and Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw First Nations are ongoing. Time to step up pressure…again.”

But the Comox Valley chapter cautions, “The recent Musgamagw Dzawada’unexw decision to file Aboriginal Title Claim already makes it crystal clear that they do not consent to the farms in their territories. The government is apparently prepared to take them through a long, expensive legal process rather than act quickly on their clear lack of consent.”

In terms of federal action, The Globe and Mail comments, “It is unclear just how the [federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans] will be able to provide assurances that fish farms will not threaten wild salmon.”

This past April, the National Observer reported that an audit by Canada’s commissioner of the environment and sustainable development found that the federal government is fumbling the management of fish farms, while failing to enforce rules and manage risks of infectious diseases, parasites, drugs and pesticides that cause damage to wild fish.

And NDP MP Fin Donnelly tweeted, “Lana Popham announced fish farms will need First Nation approval & DFO confirmation wild salmon won’t be harmed. This is a good first step towards land based closed containment. Time for the federal government to step up & announce a transition plan.”