Richard Harry supporting Fish Farms
----- Original Message -----
To: don bain
Sent: Tuesday, August 17, 2004 5:08 AM
Subject: Richard Harry supporting Fish Farms
An opportunity for natives
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. - There are two sides to every story. But in the case of salmon aquaculture in British Columbia, only one is often heard. Chief Bill Cranmer's view that fish farms are damaging B.C. waters, published in these pages last week, is an example of that one well-publicized side.
There is another perspective on aquaculture -- an industry that has created environmentally sustainable jobs and opportunities for the people of the coastal region -- that needs to be brought forward.
The mistaken perception that aquaculture can only damage the natural environment creates a major barrier to First Nations becoming involved in an industry which could allow coastal First Nations to build sustainable economies, rather than relying on government handouts or our declining commercial fisheries.
In the remote coastal community of Klemtu, about 200 kilometres north of Port Hardy, there has not been a commercial sockeye fishery for close to a quarter of a century. The local cannery closed in the late 1960s. The band looked at the environmental impacts of salmon farming and decided that, given a proper location, there was no danger. From 1989 to 1993 band members operated a fish farm at Lochalsh Bay in Jackson Passage, proving they could farm with little impact on the environment or their traditional way of life. In 1998, after a long period of careful negotiation, they entered into an agreement with Marine Harvest, a Campbell River-based business owned by one of the world's leading aquaculture firms.
As a part of the agreement with their industry partner, a research team from the Kitasoo First Nation tracks the abundance and diversity of marine life in proximity to the salmon farms regularly, testing clams, sea cucumber and prawns to detect the presence of substances that could harm these species. Divers check the ocean floor and marine life in the sea around the farms. After five years, the biological diversity of the ocean under the sites has not been found to have decreased at all. In fact, there even appears to have been a modest increase. Shellfish and crab are abundant and are fished, and eaten, today by Kitasoo people, as they always have been.
Salmon farming now constitutes the major share of the Kitasoo economy, creating significant employment in the farming, harvest, transport and primary processing sectors. This has provided opportunities for the youth to both work and remain in their community, where unemployment used to run at 90%. As part of the agreement with the company, salmon from the three farms at Klemtu are processed at a local plant operating six months of the year and employing about 60 Kitasoo people.
Looking forward, the goal is to expand the number of salmon farms from three to six, to further integrate processing and transportation, to diversify fin fish species, and to explore shellfish aquaculture.
We investigated widespread claims that salmon were fed a diet of medicated food. We learned salmon can receive antibiotics only to treat illness, and only when prescribed by a veterinarian: Over the life cycle of a salmon, 97% of their feed is free of antibiotics.
Like many others on the coast, we were concerned about the spread of sea lice, which are apart of the marine environment. Definitive data on this phenomenon is not yet in. But given the intense scrutiny the issue is receiving from qualified government and industry researchers, there is little doubt we will learn the extent of the problem, and address it as required.
In another example of our Aboriginal Aquaculture Association members working in partnership with industry, 10 students of the Kitkatla Nation have recently completed the First Nations Salmon Farm Technician program, a program the North Island College held on site in their village. These graduates are already employed outside the community in the industry, and anxiously waiting for site approvals within their traditional territories so that they can come home to work.
Chief Cranmer may choose another path for the Namgis First Nation, and we respect that decision, but we see a future in aquaculture for many First Nations on the coast, one which respects our culture and tradition, which protects the environment, and which creates a sustainable economy that will allow our people to build meaningful jobs and careers in their traditional homes.
Richard Harry, executive director of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association, is a member of the Homalco First Nation, where he served as chief for 20 years. The association was founded in 2003 to promote and assist the involvement of First Nations in aquaculture and to promote aquaculture that supports First Nations communities, culture and values. He is also a founding member of the newly established Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences.Based in Campbell River.
© National Post 2004
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