Fsh farm off an island

Cermaq Canada reoccupying Raza Island fish farm

It has been three weeks since a federal court ruled that former Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan breached the rights of B.C. salmon farmers to procedural fairness, when she ordered them to phase out their operations in the Discovery Islands by June 2022. Now Cermaq Canada is returning to its site on Raza Island. 

Raza Island (foreground) as seen from a boat circling Cortes Island – Photo by Roy L Hales

This is just across from the northern tip of Cortes Island, and in the unceded territory of four First Nations.

“People who live and work in the Discovery Islands have been sending me photographs of the Raza Island farm, which for some reason Cermaq is setting up. They’ve got the pens, they’ve towed houses down from the Broughton Archipelago and hooked them up. So far they don’t have nets, but they have invested a lot of money dragging that equipment in there and setting it up,” explained independent biologist Alexandra Morton.

A Cermaq spokesperson emailed, “We will not be entering smolts in our Raza Island site this Spring and we are awaiting the Federal Government and DFO’s decisions on license reissuance, including the Discovery Islands region.  We have not received any clarification from DFO on their interpretation of the decision. Cermaq Canada wishes to seek agreements where possible, in any areas where we farm.” 

Raza Island within the traditional territories of the Klahoose and Homalco First Nations – adapted from interactive map on BC Treaty Commision website

Morton added, “I guess Cermaq is hoping that  the minister is going to be pressured into granting them this license, but  what is alarming to me is they’re putting it in Homalco Klahoose territory. They decided to make this statement in territory where the nations spent a lot of money and time to get rid of them.” 

The Klahoose and Homalco are among the 102 First Nations that signed a joint letter calling for a transition of open-net pen fish farms out of BC waters.

They were among the seven Discovery Island Nations that Jordan consulted prior to making her decision about phasing out fish farms. 

Cortes Currents asked what they think of Cermaq’s return to Raza Island.

Chief Darren Blaney of the Homalco First Nation emailed, “We have said no, and we are getting our lawyer to send a letter telling them we do not want them there.”

Raza Island within traditional territory of the We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations – adapted from interactive map on BC Treaty Commision website

The other two First Nations claiming Raza Island are also in the group Jordan contacted.

“We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum were much more friendly towards Cermaq. Cermaq gave them the provincial tenures to their farms,” said Morton.  

They are listed as members of the Coalition of First Nations for Finfish Stewardship, which supports fish farms. 

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Top image credit: The fish farm going into Raza Island – courtesy Alexandra’s Twitter feed.

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