Over the summer, the B.C. government announced that starting in 2022 all fish farms in B.C. will have to fulfill two requirements when an existing fish farm tenure comes up for renewal or when applying for a new fish farm tenure. First, applications will have to demonstrate they have agreements in place with Indigenous Nations in whose territories they propose to operate. Additionally, federal approval is required from the Department of Fisheries and Ocean who must agree that the fish farm’s operations will not impact wild salmon stocks.
This announcement came on the same day the tenures for 20 controversial fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago were set to expire. Friends of Clayoquot Sound have acted in solidarity with the Indigenous Nations of the region. The ‘Namgis, Mamalilikala, Musgmagw Dzawada’enuwx Nations and have been fighting hard to evict the fish farms because they are a threat to wild salmon. Those farms will remain outside the new framework while government-to-government negotiations about them continue. In the meantime, the B.C. government will renew those tenures on a monthto-month basis.
The 2022 requirements are a visionary step toward implementing the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the free, prior, and informed consent protocol. However, the deadline also falls after the next B.C. general election, meaning the B.C. government mandate could change between now and then. An additional concern is that the timeframe also grants the fish farming industry time to push economic coercion strategies onto Indigenous Nations. Meanwhile the question remains: what is the value of wild salmon for functioning ecosystems?