Broughton First Nations Reach Agreement on Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Plan of Fish Farms

Vancouver lawyer Sean Jones of MLT Aikins represented the ’Namgis First Nation, who with two other Broughton Archipelago First Nation, have come to an agreement that establishes their oversight of the fish farm industry in their Territories.

On September 6, 2019, B..C Premier Horgan, along with Ministers Popham and Trevena announced agreements between the ’Namgis, Mamalilikulla and Kwikwastu’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations as well as Cermaq Canada and Mowi Canada West to create and implement the Indigenous Monitoring and Inspection Plan (IMIP) for fish farms in the Broughton Archipelago.

The agreement was a condition of the provincial land tenures granted to Cermaq and Mowi by BC as a result of the consent-based government-to-government process between those three First Nations and BC, which implemented the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The IMIP is a groundbreaking agreement that recognizes First Nations’ jurisdiction over their Territories and empowers their oversight of sea lice, pathogens, diseases and a broad range of fish health issues.

The IMIP ensures that no Atlantic farmed salmon infected with the Piscine reovirus (PRV) will be placed in the farms subject to the agreement.

Previously, Sean had represented ’Namgis in the Federal Court case that quashed Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) policy to allow fish farms to place fish with PRV in the water. DFO has until October 4, 2019 to reconsider its policy on PRV.  But, whatever the outcome of that decision, the IMIP ensures no Atlantic salmon infected with PRV will be placed in the fish farms in the Territories of the ’Namgis, Mamalilikulla and Kwikwastu’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations.

Under the IMIP, Cermaq and Mowi have also agreed to comply with standards for sea lice that are more stringent than DFO’s and require the fish farms to remove fish from a fish farm if sea lice on a fish farm could not be controlled during the out-migration period for wild salmon.

The IMIP is part of the orderly transition of fish farms from the First Nations’ Territories that will create a migration corridor for wild Pacific salmon free of fish farms. Five fish farm tenures have already been terminated and associated farms have been, or are being, decommissioned. Five more will be removed by 2022 and the remaining seven will only stay beyond 2023 if the First Nations’ consent to their continuance.

The First Nations in the Broughton region involved in the IMIP are set to receive more then $7 million in funding through the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) over the next few years in support of the program.

About Sean Jones

Based in the Vancouver office of MLT Aikins, Sean practises in Indigenous, environmental and regulatory law, with a focus on natural resource law. He has advised clients on major projects and negotiated commercial agreements between government or industry with Indigenous communities. Sean has represented First Nations in Federal Court and has appeared at all levels of court in British Columbia.