Grieg has farmed in Tlowitsis Nation territory in Clio Channel since 2014 and, in cooperation with the Nation, is seeking to expand its salmon farming operations in the area and support the Nation's goal of economic self-determination.
In May, a company owned by the Tlowitsis signed a five-year net cleaning contract with Norwegian owned Grieg’s three salmon farms in Clio Channel.
The Channel separates Turnour Island and West Cracroft Island, which lie between the north-east coast of Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland.
The Channel area is sandwiched between the Broughton Archipelago, where salmon farming is being phased out over several years under an agreement with First Nations opposed to the industry, and the Discovery Islands, where federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan has ordered the closure of 19 farm sites by June next year.
Jordan said her decision was influenced by First Nations who fear salmon farming harms wild salmon stocks, but it ignored scientific conclusions by her own Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and was regarded by many as political decision to secure Liberal Party votes in urban Vancouver, where many residents oppose the industry.
The Tlowitsis’ support for salmon farming shows another side of the relationship between salmon farming and First Nations.
Some 20 BC First Nations have partnership agreements for farming salmon in their territories resulting in 80% of all salmon farmed in BC falling under a beneficial partnership with a First Nation, according to SeaWestNews.
Chief John Smith of the Tlowitsis Nation said in a statement on Grieg’s website: ‘We have built a solid relationship with Grieg Seafood over more than ten years of many meetings, visiting their farms and travelling to Ottawa, Vancouver and Victoria to speak to regulators about our views of aquaculture.
‘Our guardians are on the water monitoring the farm activities as well as our members employed by Grieg. We have taken a lot of time to learn about the industry and our partner before we decided to become involved more directly and for us, adding more farms in our territory is the clear way forward.
‘Our net-wash service company will also benefit from additional work for our members at a new farm.’
Rocky Boschman, managing director of Grieg Seafood, said: ‘Like so many other changes to our operations during our 20 years operating in BC, integrating Indigenous businesses into our core operations is a transition that reflects the work we have started doing around reconciliation, and how we create even more opportunity than before, with our First Nations partners.
‘Chief Smith is a strong advocate for his community and has a first-hand understanding of our salmon farming operations.
‘We appreciate his regular advice and input and are committed to meeting his expectations of a respected relationship.’
Earlier, the Nation’s Councillor Thomas Smith said: ‘The Tlowitsis are always looking for opportunities that will benefit the Nation monetarily and provide potential jobs for our members.
‘As much as there seems to be controversy about the business, we believe many First Nations should be looking at long-term relationships with salmon farming partners.’