British Columbia

Fish farm companies should be required to get First Nations approval, B.C. advisory council recommends

A provincial advisory council is recommending that fish farm companies be required to have agreements in place with local First Nations before the province approves any new or replacement tenures.

Provincial advisory council spent 18 months coming up with recommendations on fish farms

Salmon swim in an enclosure at the fish farm owned by Marine Harvest Canada on Swanson Island, near Alert Bay B.C. (Sea Sheperd Conservation Society/YouTube)

A provincial advisory council is recommending that fish farm companies be required to have agreements in place with local First Nations before the province approves any new or replacement tenures.

The proposal is part of a series of recommendations issued in a 230-page report.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says the province will consider the recommendations as it reviews 20 fish-farm tenures that are up for renewal this June in the Broughton Archipelago off northeastern Vancouver Island.

Protesters have occupied multiple fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago over the past year, claiming they are operating in First Nations' traditional territories without their consent.

The B.C. Green Party said it hopes the government will not renew the tenures based on the report's recommendations and urges the government to adopt the other recommendations without delay.

"I do not want to this report to be shelved along with all the other fisheries reports we've seen over the years," said Adam Olsen, the party's wild salmon spokesperson.

The B.C. Salmon Fish Farmers Association said it agrees with most of the recommendations but finds some "unworkable in practice," particularly, when it comes acquiring First Nation agreement at existing business sites. 

"The association cannot support that recommendation as written but would welcome the opportunity to work with other stakeholders and government to clarify it," it said in a news release. 

The report also recommends that government consider putting a cap on how many farmed fish are allowed in a certain area and put farms in areas where there is lower salinity to reduce sea lice infestations.

The council also recommends establishing an independent science council to review "conflicting science" and fill information gaps about the farms. 

The council,  which included representatives from the aquaculture industry, academia and First Nations, spent 18 months coming up with immediate and long-term recommendations to protect B.C.'s wild salmon stocks. 

With files from the Canadian Press.

now