VICTORIA, B.C- The government of British Columbia has taken a new direction when it comes to fish farms off northern Vancouver Island.

According to a government press release, a letter of understanding has been signed to formalize ongoing talks between the ‘Namgis, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis and Mamalilikulla First Nations and the province on aquaculture in the Broughton Area.

The release states that both parties have agreed to speak to each other as governments, in order to reach an agreement on historical concerns about fish farms in the area.

“We are pleased to continue to work with British Columbia in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” said Bob Chamberlin, Elected Chief Councillor of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation.

“We have never consented to the presence of these fish farms in our territories. We look forward to a process that respects the need for our consent going forward.”

Scott Fraser, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, said that the province entered the talks in January in order to resolve “long standing concerns”.

“This is an important step in recognizing how we must work respectfully with Indigenous peoples to protect wild salmon,” said Fraser, in the release.

The government-to-government process, according to the province’s announcement, will acknowledge the impact of fish farms on the environment, as well as the impacts on Aboriginal title and rights of First Nations.

“The process will identify short-, medium- and long-term actions, and provide consensus recommendations to the First Nations and the Government of British Columbia,” stated the release.

“British Columbia and the First Nations will hear from the fish farm industry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other stakeholders, as part of the process.”

The Chiefs from each of the three First Nations have signed the letter, along with three ministers of the province. Those were Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture; and Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The letter has taken effect immediately, and both the First Nations and the province have started the work to implement the government to government process, with 90 days to develop consensus recommendations.