In response to the Federal Government’s decision not to renew 15 fish farm licences in the Discovery Islands, the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship says it can no longer trust the fisheries minister.
The government’s decision comes as Pacific salmon stocks are on a long-term decline, with many running on the verge of collapse.
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Joyce Murray said it was a decision that needed to be made.
“The state of wild Pacific salmon is dire, and we must do what we can to ensure their survival,” said Murray. “By taking an enhanced precautionary approach in the Discovery Islands area, the Government of Canada will help ensure the well-being of wild Pacific salmon for our children and grandchildren.”
However, the elected Chief Councillor of the Wei Wai Kum First Nation, Chris Roberts, says the coalition must have a say on what kind of salmon farming can and should take place in their territories.
“We as a coalition can no longer trust that Minister Murray can deliver a thoughtful and unbiased transition plan for the remaining salmon farms in our sovereign territories,” says Roberts.
“Our people have been looking after wild salmon for thousands of years, and we will continue to do so.”
While there are differing views on salmon farming among many First Nations communities in BC, Roberts argues that if a First Nation can say no to a resource extraction in their territory, they should also be able to say yes.
“It’s because it’s on their terms, set out by the laws and traditions of our people,” adds Roberts.
“And it’s with those laws and traditions that will guide how things are to be monitored properly.”
The coalition adds that Murray’s decision has left a dangerous precedent that will affect the transition plan for the sector negatively and threatens salmon farming operations for the rest of the territories.
They are also calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “pass the critical file on to a more responsible and unbiased minister to complete.”
“We strongly recommend the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Reconciliation, Marc Miller, for the job,” Roberts said.