BATI First Nations disappointed with DFO suppression of information

Alert Bay-Yalis – Three Broughton Area First Nations have expressed disappointment that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada decided to suppress the information they had about fish viruses associated with BC finfish aquaculture, and that they did this for 10 years, as reported by lan Bailey in The Globe and Mail on April 14th 2022 and by Leyland Cecco in The Guardian on April 14t 2022.

“We have worked very hard to understand the ways that the fish farms in our territories can affect the wild Pacific salmon populations and the health of the ecosystem, including big investments in science and monitoring programs. For 10 years, FO has had reliable information about the harm that these viruses may cause wild salmon, which we could have used to protect these dwindling stocks. The government of Canada says it wants to act like our partner but holding back this important information is not something a partner would do.”

‘Namgis First Nation Chief, Don Svanvi

Mamalilikulla First Nation, ‘Namgis First Nation, and Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation (the “Broughton First Nations”) have come together to develop the Broughton Aquaculture Transition Initiative (BAT) with the goal of recovery of Pacific salmon populations. Agreements with the Province of British Columbia and the two finish aquaculture companies operating in the Broughton Area are focused on the orderly transition of finfish aquaculture operations in the area, and potentially their removal altogether. These Nations will decide this year if seven tenures for salmon farms will be allowed to remain in their territories.

The BAT program, which has been operating since 2019, features an Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Program that includes members of all three of the Nations and monitors and oversees fish farm operations in the Broughton as well as the general health of the coastal marine environment, and throughout eight priority watersheds in the three Nations’ territories.

The program also features leading (contracted) scientific experts and academic collaborators who help the BATI program understand the health of farmed and wild salmon and the ecosystem, and the best ways to design restoration and recovery of wild salmon and important habitats.

The newly released information about the adverse effects of the highly contagious Piscine orthoreovirus (PRV) to fish health corroborates observations and other information gathered during the BATI program. However, the BAT First Nations Leadership Table feels that this information would have been extremely helpful in 2012, and potentially helped prevent the losses of wild salmon that we are dealing with today.