A K’ómoks First Nation aquaculture operation off Denman Island has generated some tension between the band and Islands Trust.
Islands Trust staff is seeking advice from provincial and federal agencies to see how the Denman Island Local Trust Committee, (DILTC) could respond to a KFN aquaculture operation in waters off Denman Island, which are zoned for conservation, according to the DILTC.
“We don’t have full clarity, and I don’t know if anyone does, and I don’t know if we’ll have for a while,” says Islands Trust Chief Administrative Officer Linda Adams. “The whole issue with First Nations aboriginal rights, as everybody knows, it’s a complex topic.”
According to FLNRO communications representative Brennan Clarke, the tenure at Henry Bay was granted to KFN-owned Pentlatch Seafoods Ltd. in 2010 by FLNRO.
The Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations, (FLNRO), has the power to approve tenure applications, (licence of occupation), for aquaculture operations. But, other agencies have regulatory authority, too, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, (aquaculture licence), Transport Canada and local government.
Clarke says the ministry encourages applicants to obtain approvals from other agencies, but agency decisions are made independent of each other, and FLNRO may grant a tenure prior to other agencies issuing their decisions.
According to a letter from KFN Chief Councillor Robert Everson to Islands Trust, KFN is asserting its rights to the area around Denman Island through its aquaculture practices.
“We have maintained the position that we do not recognize the authority of Islands Trust or the Denman Island Local Trust Committee, especially when it comes to any bylaws that may have an impact upon the lands and waters that we have had access to since time immemorial,” writes Everson, who could not be reached for comment in time for the Comox Valley Record’s deadline.
He also writes that KFN tried to address Islands Trust concerns as far back 2010, and in 2011 KFN asked for a temporary use permit while the “zoning inconsistency was addressed,” but the DILTC did not support the permit. He writes that the aquaculture zoning was put in place without any consultation with KFN.
According to Adams, the DILTC put zoning in place in 1998 “to recognize then-existing aquaculture tenures, with the remaining areas zoned for conservation.” Islands Trust couldn’t confirm Friday whether or not KFN was consulted because those files are in off-site archives, but Adams says Islands Trust general practice at the time was to refer “all proposed zoning changes to any First Nation that had expressed interests in the area, and to seek their comments.”
She adds the DILTC rezoned three marine areas in 2004 to allow aquaculture off Sandy Island and Seal Islets at the request of KFN.
The next DILTC meeting is set for 10:30 a.m.Tuesday, Nov. 26 at the Denman Island Seniors Hall, and the matter is on the agenda. To view the agenda package visit http://www.islandstrust.bc.ca. An FLNRO representative is expected to make a presentation at the meeting, but Clarke says the DILTC is encouraged handle the matter on its own.
“The Province encourages local government to follow their own compliance and enforcement of their bylaws prior to contacting FLNRO,” says Clarke. “It would not be appropriate for FLNRO to intervene until the Islands Trust has exhausted all of its enforcement options.”
Meanwhile, KFN’s Salish Sea Farms Ltd. has submitted six applications for aquaculture sites in the Comox Valley area, totalling more than 500 hectares. Three of those sites — 7.3 hectares in Henry Bay; 135.7 hectares northeast of Denman Island; and 118.7 hectares on the east side of Denman Island — fall within waters zoned for conservation by the DILTC.
Clarke notes these applications are for geoduck cultivation, while the existing site at Henry Bay doesn’t include geoducks. He says FLNRO is still gathering public input about the six current applications and no decision has been made.
“The applicant is aware that they must seek approvals from DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans), Transport Canada and local government,” adds Clarke.