Eulachon. Image: Department of fisheries and oceans. Canada.
Eulachon. Image: Department of fisheries and oceans. Canada.

BC First Nation files a lawsuit against Federal Government over salmon farms

The Dzawada'enuxw First Nation in British Columbia (BC) has filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Federal government. 


The lawsuit that was filed last week claims that 10 fish farms containing disease and parasites has contributed to the declining eulachon and wild salmon stocks located in Kingcome Inlet.

“The Dzawada'enuxw have various aboriginal rights in respect of the Sahnon Fishery, protected by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, including the rights to harvest the Salmon Species for food, ceremonial and social purposes, to harvest and exchange the Salmon Species and Sahnon Fish Products for money other goods on a limited basis, and to manage the Salmon Fishery within the Rights Area.12.”

Aboriginal culture

“The Dzawada'enuxw Eulachon Fishery and the Dzawada'enuxw Salmon Fishery continue to be of central signigcance to the distinctive aboriginal culture of the Dzawada’enuxw, although their ability to practice their customs, practices and traditions in relation to these Fisheries have been signigcantly restricted by laws, regulations and policies enacted by Canada,”  said the lawsuit.

Eulachon are a small fish that move between fresh and salt water,  found from northern California to southwest Alaska. The southern population is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Kingcome Inlet

The Dzawada'enuxw First Nation have rights over the Kingcome Inlet which is located North East of the Broughton Archipelago located between the North end of Vancouver Island and the Coast Mountains of mainland BC. 

Licences cancelled

The Dzawada'enuxw First Nation hopes to have the fish farm licences cancelled by the Federal government in hopes of replenishing eulachon and wild salmon stocks that they use for trade with other First Nation communities in exchange for other goods.

The official lawsuit document obtained by the CBC states that the 10 fish farming sites belong to Cermaq and Marine Harvest.

Last year in a joint decision the Canadian government, First Nations and Aquaculture industry agreed to phase out 17 open net salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago by 2023. The future of some of the farms depend on agreements made between the Aquaculture industry and First Nations.  

In BC the Atlantic salmon farming sites are decided by the Provincial government and the licences are issued by the Federal government.