In 1992, I began to write economic development news for an independent newspaper called Western Native News, sent to 199 Indian Bands and subscribers in B.C.. I spoke to Chiefs and Leaders for many years about the ways they pursue economic development in their communities.
One of the ways kept jumping out at me in the 1990s. I was told, time and again, the future was in fish farms. The reason was always the same. It would be the best way to save wild salmon.
Netpen fish were in B.C. waters already introduced by Chief Percy Starr, Order of Canada, of Klemtu, B.C.. This was at Kitasoo Seafoods in the 1980s. Starr watched the devastating impact of commercial fisheries on salmon. Starr was awarded the Order of Canada for achievements restoring Indigenous rights to coastal communities. His fellow leaders, like Les Neasloss, and other chiefs and leaders of the Kitasoo Xai Xais, invested in fish farming and created partnerships with international producers that continue today.
The unique nature of B.C. aquaculture, I learned, was the Indigenous leadership behind it. This does not preclude arguments from Indigenous chiefs and leaders who oppose the industry in their waters. I never heard an Indigenous chief or leader say publicly another nation is wrong to oppose fish farms.
The next thing I learned was the willingness of companies to grow fish in compliance and participation with Indigenous chiefs, leaders, and communities. And this happened when communities and companies started talking about employment.
Soon companies had 20 percent of their pay slips going into Coastal Indigenous hands. This was an amazing fact, equally matched by the growth of Indigenous-owned business on the B.C. coast working to produce healthy Atlantic salmon.
It is so easy to attract people to work in a modern industry that stands for saving wild salmon, because saving wild salmon is the reason Indigenous leaders established work in fish farming.
It's important for Canadians outside of this unique principality to understand the hearts of the people who declare their sovereign right to participate in the sustainable blue economy of the 21st century.
There are investors, and companies, working with these partners, to deliver sustainable food resources year-round to world markets. The Government of Canada is going in the opposite direction and should stop.
Malcolm 'Mack' McColl