Cermaq Canada and the Ahousaht First Nation have renewed a protocol agreement that will allow salmon farm operations to continue in Clayoquot Sound. (Cermaq Canada photo)

Cermaq Canada renews protocol agreement with Ahousaht First Nation near Tofino

Federal government maintains its commitment to transitioning away from open-net fish farms

Cermaq Canada has renewed its protocol agreement with Ahousaht First Nation to continue open-net fish farm operations in Clayoquot Sound and Ahousaht traditional territory for the next five years despite the federal government’s stated plans to phase out open-net fish farming.

Manager director of Cermaq Canada David Kiemele said the federal policy around the transition plan has yet to be defined.

“Our protocol is with the Ahousaht Nation, and their ability to make decisions for their economic self-determination is very important. We are happy to play a role in that piece. I wouldn’t let something that is still floating out there in ambiguity to prevent us from doing work with the Ahousaht Nation,” Kiemele said.

Cermaq Canada operates more than 70 per cent of its farming operations in Ahousaht Territory under the Ahousaht Protocol Agreement. Respect and recognition of Ahousaht governance, territory, and position as a rights-holder is central to the protocol, reads a May 25 media statement from Cermaq Canada.

“At the end of day, the relationship between myself and the Nation is in a good place. We are just committed to doing things better moving forward,” said Kiemele.

According to the fish farming company, the renewed protocol agreement builds upon the previous, which addressed operational plans, environmental stewardship, wild salmon conservation, economic development, benefits sharing, employment and emerging business opportunities.

“New to this latest protocol, is a further focus on reconciliation and wild salmon, area-based management, innovation, MHSS specific standards and broader environmental monitoring in recognition of changing ocean conditions, climate change and potential salmon farming impacts and opportunities” reads Cermaq Canada’s media statement.

Hasheukumiss (Richard George), son of Tyee Ha’wiih and president of protocol signatory Maaqtusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society, released the following statement on behalf of the Ahousaht Ha’wiih (Hereditary Chiefs):

“We are at a point of unprecedented challenges brought on by climate change, and a lack of understanding, particularly in government of our Nation’s rights and this important relationship. We are committed to working together to tackle both challenges through continued advancement of meaningful and measurable climate action, a focus on the health and well-being of the Ahousaht Nation, the protection and enhancement of wild salmon and providing open dialogue about the shared value approach of Cermaq Canada to increase understanding across governments of the critical role this business plays in rural coastal indigenous and non-indigenous communities alike.”

A May 25 email statement from Claire Teichman, press secretary for Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray, re-iterated the federal government’s commitment to transitioning away from open-net farms.

“Last spring, former Parliamentary Secretary Terry Beech concluded engagements on a plan to phase out open-net pen fish farms, which was published in July 2021, and DFO officials are in the process of building on this work,” wrote Teichman.

Teichman said collaboration with Indigenous communities, the Province of B.C. and industry stakeholders will be key to developing a successful transition plan that includes a vision to create economic opportunities for communities that rely on fish farming.

“DFO is in consultation with the licence holders and a decision will be made in due course. The protection of wild Pacific salmon is a priority for British Columbians,” Teichman said. “In recent years, climate change, including B.C.’s recent landslides and flooding, habitat loss and fishing pressures have negatively affected Pacific salmon at every stage of the life cycle.”

RELATED: Ahousaht member donates $12K to Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society


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Fish FarmsFisheries and Oceans CanadaIndigenous reconcilliation