Ian Roberts, director of public affairs for Marine Harvest Canada.

Ian Roberts, director of public affairs for Marine Harvest Canada.

Op-Ed: Salmon farming in B.C. – that was then, this is now

Many local entrepreneurs along B.C.’s coast showed interest in salmon farming in the 1980s.

By Ian Roberts

This year marks my twentieth anniversary since my first trip to Klemtu. I was invited, representing Marine Harvest, to discuss expansion of their salmon farming business that the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation invested into during the 1980s. In 1998, I began working alongside elder Eric Robinson to build what is now a very successful and year-round salmon aquaculture venture that provides 60 jobs to a village of 400.

Many local entrepreneurs along B.C.’s coast showed interest in salmon farming in the 1980s. It made sense – growing fish (by farming or ranching) was a logical response to supplying a growing global market for seafood, to supplement the supply gap that oceans could no longer naturally produce, and for year-round jobs in remote communities with little economic opportunity and a decades-long downturn in the commercial fishery.

North Islanders also realized the potential of salmon farming. In the late 80s, applications for investigation into salmon farm permits were submitted by numerous locals, including fisherman Billy Proctor and the Musgamagw Tribal Council. Local businesses provided services for initial siting criteria, like tourism operator Bill MacKay, and commercial fisherman James Walkus soon began employing boats and people to supply services to nearby farms.

In the years that followed, many salmon farm leases owned by locals were sold on to companies that brought expert knowledge and vital capital investment from countries with decades of salmon growing experience. The past four decades has seen much evolution of the businesses: from dodgy wooden pen frames to steel cages, and from guessing with feed scoops to precise fish feeding accuracy using computer delivery systems with underwater cameras.

But this same period has also seen an evolution in opposition to salmon farming. Well-funded anti-salmon farming campaigns in the early 2000s brought media-savvy criticism to the industry. Some criticism was deserved, and much exaggerated. But everyone can agree that criticism has helped push B.C. salmon farming quicker down the path of sustainability. That path is never ending, but with our sector leading the world with third-party product and operational certifications, our B.C. aquaculture industry is jogging far ahead of most other regions around the globe.

Today, some of the same people who took part in the development of salmon farming on the North Island now state their opposition to the business. While I respect their right to change their minds, I do wonder what forces have pushed that change. In my 25 years salmon farming on this coast I have only witnessed continued improvements that include high-tech investments, staff development, environmental monitoring and management, third-party audits, and fish husbandry.

However, Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples has clearly evolved since salmon farming began. Unlike 30+ years ago, business activities that may impact the rights of Indigenous peoples must include consultation between Crown and First Nations governments, and where appropriate accommodation provided for shared activities. Where title is proven, First Nations have exclusive rights. Salmon farmers are in full support of this new government to government relationship and are ready to work with all governments regarding its business.

Today, there are over two dozen social, economic and business agreements between B.C. salmon farming companies and First Nations, and about 80% of the salmon harvested is from territories with agreement. In this new era, B.C. salmon farmers will not apply for new farms in First Nation territories without equitable partnership. And in areas without agreement, salmon farmers are committed to work with all governments to find negotiated solutions.

Salmon farming looked different 30 years ago, and the way we look at salmon farming is different today. With collaboration and understanding, we can all look to a future that provides for North Island families, grows healthy food, and helps conserve our ocean.

– Op-Ed submitted by Ian Roberts, salmon farmer and Director of Public Affairs with Marine Harvest Canada.

 

Op-Ed: Salmon farming in B.C. – that was then, this is now

Just Posted

North Island Gazette
EDITORIAL: What to do about homelessness in Port Hardy

‘people suffering from homelessness deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion’

North Island Eagles logo
North Island Eagles give update on the upcoming 2021-2022 season

The North Island Eagles minor rep hockey teams are getting ready for… Continue reading

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens between Port Alberni and Tofino

Multi-vehicle accident temporarily closed highway in both directions

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

Most Read