A group of more than 100 First Nations and fishery organizations are urging Canada to follow through on its commitment to move away from open-net cage fish farms.
In a news conference Tuesday (April 5), representatives from five nations expressed their support for the transition, emphasizing the importance of preserving wild salmon for generations to come. The move would see open-net cage fish farms moved onto land, removing them, and the sea lice and disease they often carry, from the path of wild salmon.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, chair of the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, said if action isn’t taken soon, B.C. will have no wild salmon left.
“We must recognize the crisis situation we’re in,” he told reporters. “It’s time that we get serious before we face extinction across the province.”
For First Nations, the steady decline of wild salmon numbers off B.C.’s coast means a serious infringement on their right to food security. But the impacts will be far wider reaching, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of Union of British Columbian Indian Chiefs, said Tuesday.
“This is an issue that should be of grave concern for all British Columbians,” he said.
Beyond feeding humans, wild salmon also serve as a primary food source for numerous other land and sea animals and provide a surge of nutrients to the environment upon their death, according to non-profit Pacific Wild.
They are also of immense cultural importance to First Nations.
“They’re part of Mother Earth…the salmon people are hurting, and we have a responsibility to bring them back,” Chief Darrel Bob of the Xaxli’p and St’at’imc nations said.
"We’re in a time of change, we’re in a crisis. That crossroads requires true leadership and making decisions to stop what’s impacting our salmon,” Chief Darrel Bob says.— Jane Skrypnek (@janeskrypnek) April 5, 2022
The group is depending on a commitment Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously made in a mandate letter to the minister of fisheries and oceans that marked 2025 as the deadline for a transition away from open-net farms.