Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations on Federal Plan for Finfish Aquaculture

TSULQUATE RESERVE, BC, June 19, 2024 /CNW/ – Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations (GNN) on the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island say they are deeply disturbed by federal government’s unilateral decision on finfish aquaculture without consent or proper consultation on the alternatives.

The decision is viewed by the Nation as an attempt to foreclose constitutionally guaranteed Indigenous rights, titles and interests that GNN has never acquiesced, ceded or surrendered.

The 1,200-member community has relied on aquaculture to provide services and jobs in recent years after it was forced to relocate from traditional lands on mainland British Columbia and excluded from the lucrative wild salmon fishery.

“This is devastating – our finfish operations lifted us from poverty to prosperity and now there is no clear path forward,” said Chief Terry Walkus. “Changing the course of our industry so profoundly without consultation or consent is unacceptable.”

Cyrus Singh, CEO of the K’awat’si Economic Development Corporation which guides economic growth for GNN, expressed deep sadness and disappointment that the government appears to prioritize privileged activists over Indigenous communities reliant on finfish aquaculture. He criticized these groups for advocating for disruptive policy that disregards the necessary time for innovation. Sustainable technologies and practices that balance environmental concerns with Indigenous rights and economic development are the future, but change takes time.

“We’ve worked with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and others for years to avoid this outcome. Canada committed to a ‘responsible, realistic and achievable plan. It remains to be seen if we can switch to a closed system in five years without major impacts on the community.'”

Singh says GNN has always been on board with stricter regulations to minimize environmental impacts, robust investments in research and development for sustainable aquaculture practices, and support for operations prioritizing environmental stewardship.

This would phase out harmful practices while allowing responsible aquaculture to continue. On this path, the government must align its actions with commitments to reconciliation and responsible resource management, ensuring a balance between environmental protection, Indigenous rights and economic development.

“We need to work together to find a solution that upholds the Nations’ rights, supports their economic development, and ensures the long-term sustainability of both wild salmon and our salmon farming operations. Our plan incorporates advanced technologies, wild stock rehabilitation and lessons learned from successful sustainable aquaculture practices elsewhere.”

SOURCE Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations (GNN)