INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM

B.C.'s Salmon Farming 'Textbook' Released 

BC First Nations, scientists, and sector launch collaborative salmon farming ‘textbook’ ahead of DFO license re-issuance​

BCSFA Website

Image Courtesy CAHS

LAICHKWILTACH TERRITORY/CAMPBELL RIVER, BC – Apr.5, 2024 -- Today, the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (the Coalition), the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA), and the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) announce the release of a 500-page collaborative publication on the BC salmon farming sector with contributions and data from First Nations, Pacific Ocean scientists, the sector, subject matter experts, government and eNGOS.

This publication, called Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review, was commissioned by the Coalition and other Rightsholder First Nations that host salmon farming in their traditional territories to provide additional transparency and details of salmon farming operations to answer questions from Indigenous communities as the federal government’s transition for the sector nears.

“As First Nations with salmon farming in their territories move forward on the sector’s transition with government, some of our communities have noticed knowledge or information gaps regarding modern salmon farming. Our leadership wants to make the best-informed decisions for our communities regarding the sector and our marine management plans. This is why we asked the BCSFA to put together a ‘textbook’ of information on fish farms that would answer the questions coming from our members,” says Dallas Smith, spokesperson for the Coalition and member of the Tlowitsis Nation.

“As our partners, the BCSFA went above and beyond to compile this information – which is obvious by the size of the 500-page document. This collection of Western science and data is a good base for us to apply our rich traditional knowledge to so that our leadership is armed with the holistic information we need to steward our waters and wild salmon, while protecting the social and economic health of our communities,” Smith added.

The BCSFA has been compiling the science review for the past year and is publishing it online today. At the same time, the Coalition has sent copies to dozens of First Nations across the province in the spirit of creating a Nation-to-Nation dialogue. Topics covered in the publication across 13 chapters include the current state of Pacific salmon, sea lice, fish health, benthic conditions, incidental catch, mammal interactions, and First Nations stewardship.

“While the development of this review has been a rigorous effort, it is important to show that we truly are committed to trust and transparency with, first and foremost, the First Nations in whose territories we operate, as well as the public and government decision-makers,” says Brian Kingzett, Executive Director of the BCSFA. 

“BC salmon farmers have always been committed to respecting First Nations, responsible practices, environmental stewardship, and community engagement. We are furthering our commitment to transparency of our operations as we continue to innovate to reduce our environmental impact. This scientific review document launched today reinforces the sector's position as a responsible contributor to the economy, the environment, and the well-being of coastal communities,” says Kingzett.

Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review also expands on the importance of First Nations inclusion in the operations and data analysis of the sector, particularly in applying their traditional knowledge and oversight utilizing stewardship programs like Guardian Watchmen.

Both the Coalition and the BCSFA are united in support of building Indigenous science capacity and the marriage of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) with Western science methodology to provide a fulsome, holistic picture of what’s happening in the marine environment.

The BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) is an ISO-accredited lab in Campbell River whose governance is now Indigenous-led. BC CAHS is an independent non-profit that specializes in working with wild and farmed salmon and focuses on inclusive science with local First Nations. It will add its services to the new Indigenous Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences and Stewardship (iCAHS) planned on Wei Wai Kum territory.

"CAHS is an Indigenous-governed and science-led independent organization committed to scientific excellence, cultural respect, and environmental stewardship. We aim to bridge traditional knowledge with modern science through  collaboration and innovation, ensuring a sustainable future for all,” says Dr. Ahmed Siah, Managing Director of BC CAHS.

“We strongly feel this collaborative effort, Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review, aligns with many of our values, goals, practices, and priorities at CAHS and serves as an inspiring example of what happens when First Nations are given a leadership seat at the table of Western science, especially when it concerns their traditional territories. This is how CAHS is committed to our operations, now and into the future,” added Siah.

The release of this science compilation is timely for First Nations, the sector, and suppliers as federal fisheries minister Diane Lebouthillier is expected to announce the salmon farming licencing decision in BC later this spring as she meets her mandate to finalize a “responsible, realistic and achievable” Transition Plan for the sector by 2025.

“BC coastal First Nations have been the stewards of our waters since time immemorial. Today, our stewardship includes both conservation and exploration of marine-based economic opportunities for our communities, like salmon farming,” said Smith. 

“At a time when Canadians are worried about food security, food affordability, and climate change, our communities have both the traditional knowledge and now a textbook of scientific evidence to choose how to best include salmon farming in our ocean and economic planning.

This way, coastal First Nations can participate in Canada’s Blue Economy and help put food on tables for families across the country.”

The full report can be found at www.bcsalmonfarmers.ca/science-review

More information:
• Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review contains over 500 citations from scientific studies and research, government data, eNGO data, sector data, and other external references.
• The document contains input from and was reviewed by First Nations partners, aquaculture academics, Pacific scientists, and topic experts.
• Over a dozen coastal First Nations are hosting finfish farms in their territories in BC. These Nations comprise a substantial area of BC’s southwest coast, from Central/Western Vancouver Island to the Central Coast.
• BC salmon farmers generate over $1.142 billion of direct economic activity in BC annually, with $51 million in revenue going to First Nations.
• The sector produces 38 million meals annually and approximately 6,000 direct and indirect jobs, 500 of those being Indigenous.
• The combined direct, indirect and induced economic activity contributes more than a billion dollars to GDP, providing rural economic opportunities that support healthy and thriving communities and families.
• Additionally, the sector supports up to 375 community organizations and charities each year, further enhancing the social fabric of coastal communities.

About the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship
The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (the Coalition) represents several First Nations Rightsholders spanning from central/western Vancouver Island to BC’s Central Coast who united in March 2022 over their concern that their self-determination and rights were under threat by the Government of Canada in regards to the future of salmon farming in BC.

Rightsholder Nations are now working with a more collaborative federal government process and, alongside the provincial government and the sector, are close to launching a draft framework of a Transition Plan for BC salmon farming in their territories that is responsible, realistic, and achievable, to ensure the social and economic health of Indigenous coastal communities continues to thrive.

About the BC Salmon Farmers Association
The BC Salmon Farmers Association represents over 60 businesses and organizations throughout the value chain of finfish aquaculture in BC. Their members account for over 95% of the annual provincial harvest of farm-raised salmon in British Columbia. Farm-raised salmon generates over $1.142 billion of direct economic activity in BC annually, producing an impressive 38 million meals annually and providing approximately 6000 direct and indirect jobs. The combined direct, indirect, and induced economic activity contributes more than a billion dollars to GDP, providing rural economic opportunities that support healthy and thriving communities and families.

About the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences
The BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) is an independent Indigenous-governed ISO/IEC 17025 2017 -accredited non-profit laboratory based in Campbell River, BC, that specializes in working with the wild, enhanced, Indigenous and salmon farming communities within BC to provide relevant, timely and reliable research and diagnostic information to help make informed decisions on key issues facing salmon.

BC CAHS provides services to Provincial (BCMAL, BCMOE) and Federal (DFO, CFIA) government agencies and academic institutions (North Island College (NIC), University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver Island University (VIU) and Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre (BMSC)).

Through these collaborations, we continue to provide science-based results that result in a growing publications list.

Contacts are available at the Coalition of FNFFS, via Katie Maximick, katie@firstnationsforfinfish.ca


Contacts are available at BCSFA via Michelle Franze, michelle@bcsalmonfarmers.ca

More information about BC CAHS is available from Dr. Ahmed Siah ahmed.siah@cahs-bc.ca

Backgrounder:
• The Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship (FNFFS), the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) and the BC Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences (BC CAHS) have jointly released a new comprehensive science review examining the current state and impact of salmon farming in British Columbia.
• Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review is the result of requests from First Nations partners with salmon farming in their territories who were asking for more transparency and information about the sector, including its impacts, to share with their communities and to help guide First Nations’ leadership in decision-making regarding the sector.
• This over 500-page review was put together over the past year and includes 13 chapters and over 500 citations from scientific studies, eNGO data, government data, and other external references. 
• FNFFS provided the chapter on Indigenous Stewardship and reviewed and commented on materials in other chapters that mentioned First Nations partnerships and other topics
• Topics covered in Modern Salmon Farming in British Columbia: A Review include:
o Current state of wild Pacific salmon in the ocean
o Local Pacific salmon habitats
o Reconciliation & First Nations’ stewardship
o Fish escapes
o Incidental catch
o Biodiversity
o Wildlife interactions
o Sea lice
o Fish health
o Food safety
o Community benefits of salmon farming

• Contributors include subject matter experts, both internal and external to the sector, including wild Pacific salmon scientists, aquaculture academics, biologists, benthic experts, and veterinarians,
• The review aims to be a valuable resource for all individuals seeking to comprehensively understand the reality of salmon farming in British Columbia. This report endeavours to foster transparency, encourage open dialogue, and contribute to the sustainable development of this crucial sector.

Linked is a page of on BC Salmon Farmers website with resources to introduce readers to what's in the review.