shíshálh Nation | Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada

Escaped Atlantic Salmon Verified in shíshálh Nation’s waters, Sabine Channel, Sechelt, BC

 Escaped Atlantic Salmon Verified in shíshálh Nation’s waters, Sabine Channel, Sechelt, BC
Date Posted: 2017-08-29

Photo Caption: Left to Right from shíshálh Nation with 3 Atlantic Salmon in their waters August 27th, 2017, Sid Quinn, Resource Director, Councillor Corey August, Fisheries Technician Dwayne Paul, Councillor Selina August

On the morning of Monday August 28 2017, the shíshálh Nation’s Resource Management Department received three (3) specimens of invasive Atlantic Salmon, caught in the shíshálh Nation’s waters. The fishers turning in the specimens were shíshálh Nation members who had been exercising their food, social and ceremonial (FSC) rights, fishing in the Sabine Channel on Sunday August 27, targeting pink salmon for shíshálh Nation elders. The shíshálh fisheries biologist and staff confirmed all three specimens are Atlantic Salmon. Necropsy was performed on the three (3) specimens. Thus far the Nation confirms it was two females and one male Atlantic Salmon, averaging 7-10 pounds, the females with developing eggs. There is a high probability that the Atlantic Salmon are escapees reported on August 19th, 2017 from Cooke Aquaculture fish farm in Washington State, located 80 nautical miles south of the shíshálh discovery. Unfortunately, the fish are not marked to allow for definitive source identification.

shíshálh, best known as the salmon people, have long expressed opposition to the culture of non-indigenous salmonid species within their swiya (world/waters/lands/territory). The shíshálh Nation has a Marine Finfish Aquaculture Policy, which was developed “to reflect and carry forward the sacred trust we hold for current and future generations of the shíshálh People, in a manner which respects our Title and Rights, international legal standards, and the common law.” The policy can be viewed on the Nation’s website: http://www.shishalh.com/rights-and-title/).

The Policy states in part:
“Protection of Indigenous Species: The shíshálh Nation believes that the protection, maintenance, and rehabilitation of aquatic resources, their habitats, and interconnected life support systems, take precedence in managing aquatic resources. For species and ecosystems to continue to produce benefits, we must protect their diversity and resilience to impacts and changes. In making decisions, it is important to respect the limits of our knowledge and understanding of aquatic systems, especially given current uncertainty about environmental change. We must err on the side of caution when making decisions. As outlined in the shíshálh Land and Resources Decision-Making Policy (http://www.shishalh.com/rights-and-title/), the shíshálh Nation follows the precautionary principle, which states that where there are threats of
serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent harm to aquatic species and their habitat…The shíshálh Nation does not support the culture of non-indigenous salmonid species within our Territory. Numerous studies have provided evidence of potential negative impacts of fish farms on British Columbia’s marine environment. Escape does occur, and farmed Atlantic salmon have been found to survive in the wild despite previous assurances to the contrary. Plans to continue raising non-indigenous species within the Territory will not be supported by the Nation.”

According to shíshálh Chief Warren Paull, “While these Atlantic Salmon likely came from south of the border, it must be recognized that invasive species do not recognize borders. Now the question is not if, but when, these species are going to gain access to our streams. Our Nation has repeatedly raised questions and concerns for over 15 years about the farming of Atlantic Salmon. It seems the Federal and Provincial decision-making processes have been prioritizing the commercial interests of industrial finfish farms over our collective right to live as a distinct people with the wild, native fish populations and healthy marine environment that is central to our way of life. The discovery of escaped Atlantic Salmon in our waters is a source of grave concern. We take our responsibility to steward our rights for the benefit of both current and future generations of our people very seriously.”

“We hope this situation can be contained and monitored, and that future decision-making around marine finfish aquaculture will be carried out through developing shared and collaborative decision-making processes with First Nations. Aquaculture activities require meaningful and comprehensive engagement with us. These activities present management issues with significant environmental, economic, and cultural implications for the shíshálh Nation, and for coastal communities as a whole.”

The shíshálh Nation’s Resource Management department reached out to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) repeatedly on Monday Aug 28, 2017. DFO has not yet taken any measures or provided a satisfactory response to how to address this crisis in a collaborative manner. The shíshálh Nation asserts its position that the Nation does not support the culture of non-indigenous salmonid species within the shíshálh swiya (world/waters/lands/territory). Chief and Council are concerned with the lack of urgency on the part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to determine the extent of this large introduction of invasive species, Atlantic Salmon. This release and movement of fish into Canadian waters may affects shíshálh Nation and other coastal communities. Fisheries and Oceans needs to take a collaborate approach in its decision making and work with all affected First Nations in developing a plan satisfactory to everyone. Immediate field work, shared with First Nations and other potentially impacted coastal communities needs to be considered. Concentrations of Atlantic Salmon within Canadian marine waters that may adversely impact native species that communities rely upon must be investigated fully.

If there are any further inquiries please contact the shíshálh Nation Council c/o crystalcox@secheltnation.net or 604-885-2273.

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