Net gains from aquaculture for First Nations businesses

“For the past 20 years, I have stood up for aquaculture and believed in it even when others denigrated it” – Richard Harry, Homalco First Nation member.

By Fabian Dawson

The life of Richard Harry, a member of the Homalco First Nation on Vancouver Island, has always been linked to the waters of British Columbia.

“Water is what I know,” said the former leader of the Homalco, known as the “People of Turbulent Waters”.

“For me and my family, we have always worked on the water,” he said.

“We have always been a family of commercial fishermen and the kids practically grew up on our boats so it was an experience of a lifetime.”

This week, Harry’s connection to the seas of his traditional territory resulted in yet another gain for his family and people.

His company – R Harry Fishing Ltd. – signed a net washing contract with Grieg Seafood BC to serve five salmon farms in Nootka Sound, British Columbia.

Harry is currently refitting his commercial fishing boat into a work boat for washing nets, which will also house his workers on board. He also purchased three automated net washing machines to service Grieg’s farms in Nootka Sound.

“For the past 20 years, I have championed aquaculture and believed in it even when others criticized it. We see a lot of changes with industry and First Nations going forward, and I’ve been a part of it for a long time, ”said Harry, founding member of the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association (AAA).

“This type of partnership that we are establishing today can be a model for that. I am very proud to be part of this arrangement, my family is looking forward to it and I am very grateful for it.

This is the second net washing deal between Grieg and a local Indigenous company so far this year, after the Tlowitsis Nation company, Chief’s Pride Aquaculture Corp., signed a similar contract with Grieg in June. to serve salmon farms in their traditional Clio Channel territory.

“Grieg wants to find opportunities not only for our First Nations partners, but also for First Nations businesses to be successful, and this is one example: breaking down what would normally be a big contract awarded to a company into regions for different nations. or Aboriginal businesses to participate, ”said Rocky Boschman, Managing Director of Grieg Seafood BC.

“I know Richard is very enterprising and progressive in his thinking. He is a leader in his community and he cares a lot about his family and the community in general, ”said Boschman.

“Ultimately, he is an innovative thinker who seeks to create local economic opportunities and support the responsible cultivation of a low carbon protein. We are really happy that he is officially involved with us.

Earlier this month, Greig, in partnership with Tlowitsis First Nation, applied for an additional salmon aquaculture license in the Clio Channel near the Discovery Islands, where Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan ordered the closure of farms. marine salmon farming operations at the request of anti-fish farming activists.

“Adding more farms to our land is the way to go,” said Chief John Smith of the Tlowitsis First Nation.

“Our wardens are on the water to monitor farm activities as well as our members employed by Grieg. We took a long time to educate ourselves about the industry and our partner before deciding to get involved more directly and for us, adding more farms to our territory is the way to go. Our net washing service business will also benefit from additional work for our members on a new farm.

The Tlowitsis Nation, which has 450 registered members, already has a net cleaning agreement for three salmon farms operated by Grieg Seafood BC in the Clio Channel.

Grieg now operates 22 farms off Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast, which are licensed to produce 23,400 tonnes of salmon for North American and Asian markets.

Twenty First Nations in British Columbia have partnership agreements to farm salmon in their territories, resulting in 80% of all salmon raised in the province in a beneficial partnership with a First Nation.

Among them is the Kitasoo / Xai’Xais First Nation which has an agreement with Mowi Canada West for economic development and employment focused on salmon farming and processing in Klemtu, British Columbia.

The Kitasoo / Xai’Xais began raising and processing salmon since the late 1980s, forming a company partnership with Mowi in 1998.

Another First Nations-owned company is the James Walkus Fishing Company, which serves the aquaculture industry with an armada of boats employing approximately 50 people in Port Hardy.

“Sustainable aquaculture is essential to the prosperity of our wild fish… The employment it creates for many of our First Nations and other Canadians is important,” said James Walkus, a Gwa Nation Elder. sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw.

“We need it, British Columbia needs it, the world needs it. If we don’t, another country will and it will be our loss and another country’s gain, ”Walkus told SeaWestNews in a previous interview.

“The aquaculture industry has been great for me, my family and my community… there are a lot of us from the First Nations who are into aquaculture,” he said.

CAPT: Image shows Richard Harry’s commercial fishing boat being refitted into a net washing vessel – courtesy of Greig Seafood BC.

About Marco C. Nichols

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