PORT HARDY, B.C. – Jobs are safe at the Mowi (formerly Marine Harvest) salmon farming operation in Port Hardy.

This is according to Mowi director of public affairs Jeremy Dunn, after a historic agreement last month involving the provincial government, fish farm companies in the Broughton Archipelago, and local First Nations.

“There’s no immediate for changes to our employment levels,” Dunn said.

“Over the next couple of years, we will be working to ensure that our production levels remain constant and ensure that we’re putting much-needed fish into the market that are in high demand for people.”

Last month, the province unveiled recommendations “that will protect and restore wild salmon stocks, allow an orderly transition plan for open-pen finfish for the Broughton Archipelago and create a more sustainable future for local communities and workers,” according to a government release.

Dunn said, “We very much supported the decision made by the B.C. governments and First Nations governments regarding the tenures in the Broughton (Archipelago) that were announced in December.”

The recommendations come out of a process undertaken by the province and the ‘Namgis First Nation, the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations and Mamalilikulla First Nation, following a letter of understanding (LOU) regarding the future of finfish aquaculture in the Broughton.

The recommendations have been agreed to by the two fish farm operators in the Broughton: Mowi (Marine Harvest Canada) and Cermaq Canada.

The province and the three First Nations endorsed recommendations which include:

  • to create an orderly transition of 17 farms, operated by Marine Harvest Canada and Cermaq Canada, from the Broughton area between 2019 and 2023;
  • establish a farm-free migration corridor in the Broughton in the short term to help reduce harm to wild salmon;
  • develop a First Nations-led monitoring and inspection program to oversee those farms during the transition, which will include compliance requirements and corrective measures;
  • implement new technologies to address environmental risks including sea lice;
  • call for immediate action to enhance wild salmon habitat restoration and rehabilitation in the Broughton;
  • confirm a willingness to work together to put into place the agreements and protocols necessary to implement the recommendations, including continued collaboration with the federal government; and
  • secure economic development and employment opportunities by increasing support for First Nations implementation activities and industry transition opportunities outside the Broughton.

Mowi has operated farms in the area for the past 30 years, and stated in a release that “this path forward will ensure a viable production area is maintained during the transition period and allow for business adjustments to be made.”

“Marine Harvest Canada will continue to invest in its employees and equipment to ensure world-class salmon farming standards are met.  There are no changes to employment anticipated at this time,” according to the release.

Dunn said Mowi is beginning the implementation process, continuing to meet with First Nations and government, to discuss the Indigenous monitoring and inspection plan which are part of the announcement.

“There’s a lot of work to do over the next number of months as we fully implement that decision,” Dunn said.

Mowi employs 80 First Nations people in farming, processing, or in its offices.

“We’re always working to continue to add more First Nations employees into our operations,” Dunn said. “We also work with a number of First Nations owned and operated contract organizations such as the James Walkus Fishing Company which harvests all of our fish, and they employ 30 First Nations people in their company.”

Dunn added that in the next couple of years, Mowi doesn’t have a planned decrease in its fish production.

“We will be moving and changing some of our production and production cycles, to comply with the recommendations and decisions in the Broughton,” Dunn said.

“The decision in the Broughton was called an orderly transition for a reason. It does provide opportunity to transition to a new regime of farming in that area and at the same time not adversely affect our employment levels or the economy here in the North Island.”