First Nations group criticizes federal fish policies, conflict of interest in B.C.

OTTAWA — An Indigenous-led group is criticizing what it says is the "gross mismanagement" of aquaculture in British Columbia by the Fisheries Department, as it calls for a separation of its regulatory and promotional responsibilities.

The First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance says the department is mired in conflict of interest stemming from its dual role, which the group's chairman Bob Chamberlin described as like "marking your own homework."

Chamberlin says the group wants the department to stick to its primary obligation of looking after the environment and fisheries, and to implement "a truly independent" scientific body to help inform government decisions affecting marine life in B.C.

A Fisheries and Oceans spokeswoman says the institution is preparing a response to the criticisms raised by the alliance.

Chamberlin and the alliance have been vocal critics of federal policy on fisheries in B.C., including what he says is industry involvement in the reports by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat on issues such as fish farming's risk to wild salmon stocks.

Chamberlin says such participation in the scientific reports results in a "predetermined" outcome that would benefit industry.

"In conclusion, we need to fix the current (Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat) process, which is run by DFO and entwined with the management preferences, influences and aspirations of the department," Chamberlin said during a briefing in Ottawa.

"Based on our considerable professional experience, I reiterate that Canada should implement a truly independent science advice body to directly advise decision-makers and recommend further research without being subjected to vested interests inside or outside of DFO."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press