The Aboriginal Aquaculture Association is pleased to announce the Aboriginal Aquaculture in Canada Initiative (AACI). It is a new development funded through the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development Strategic Partnership Initiative.
The Aboriginal Aquaculture Association (AAA) was established in 2003 largely in response to the decline of the traditional resource industries of forestry and fishing resulting in high unemployment rates in First Nation communities.
Aquaculture was one of the fastest growing sectors in BC. Chief Richard Harry, a founding member and President of the Association states “Sustainable aquaculture development has the potential to restore coastal First Nations to thriving, self-sustaining communities through increased employment, revenue and control over the ancestral territories.”
The Aboriginal Aquaculture Association was to serve as a focal point for First Nations to work together to develop renewed community economies based on sustainable, responsible aquaculture and to assist and support the meaningful participation of First Nations in sustainable aquaculture development.
The AAA vision is that First Nations will play a key role in the development of a sustainable aquaculture sector. The AAA provides guidance and advice in support of economic development, addressing the specific interests and needs of First Nations interested or involved in aquaculture development. Its mandate is to promote aquaculture development that supports First Nations communities, culture and values.
Currently there are about 50 Aboriginal groups from across Canada that have developed aquaculture business ventures and partnerships. This has resulted in new job creation and skills development and as a result has increased the wealth and prosperity in the rural and coastal communities providing both social and economic benefits.
An increasing number of Aboriginal communities across Canada are expressing interest to learn more and get involved in new opportunities in the aquaculture sector. In response to this increased interest the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in partnership with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, have implemented the Aboriginal Aquaculture in Canada Initiative (AACI).
Through the AACI, Aboriginal communities and entrepreneurs can receive support to capitalize on the economic development opportunities in aquaculture that are available to them.
The AAA coordinates the delivery of the support services in B.C., Alberta and Canada’s North (Yukon, NWT, Nunavut). A Regional Aquaculture Business Development Team consisting of Aboriginal Business Technical Experts (ABTE) has been set-up to provide business and technical services to Aboriginal communities and entrepreneurs interested in developing a sustainable business in aquaculture. The team can also link Aboriginal businesses with others from government, industry, academia and non-government organizations to help bring additional expertise to the initiative.
Services include assistance with development and preparation of business plans, feasibility studies, preparation of project funding proposals, and help with the provision of advisory and aftercare support.
Aquaculture in Canada occurs in every province and the Yukon Territory. Across Canada, 56 different species of finfish, shellfish and aquatic plants are commercially cultivated. In Canada, aquaculture generates about $2 billion in total economic activity, much of which takes place in rural and coastal communities.
There are immediate opportunities for the development of finfish, shellfish and freshwater aquaculture endeavors, with longer-term opportunities for species where culture technology is under development (e.g. geoduck, scallop, sablefish, sea cucumber and rockfish). In coastal B.C., First Nation communities have great potential for salmon and sablefish farming and processing, for oysters and clams and emerging aquaculture species (geoduck, abalone, cockles, scallops, sea urchins). Inland and in the north of B.C., trout, and possibly sturgeon, walleye and perch have potential for development. Rainbow trout make up the majority of Alberta’s production and sales. Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have a small aquaculture industry composed of pothole-lake fish farms, where fish are stocked and grown in closed-system pothole lakes, and tank farm operations that raise and export Arctic char and Arctic char eggs.
In order to meet global demand for seafood it will be necessary for the industry to grow, “First Nations want to be a part of that and are interested in direct participation in the development of sustainable aquaculture”, says Harry. “Industry and government are beginning to recognize the benefits of being more inclusive of First Nations. Kitasoo, Ahousaht, and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations are all positive examples where First Nations and the aquaculture industry have worked cooperatively, resulting in mutually beneficial relationships.” For First Nations, this has meant increased employment; revenues and other social and economic development spin off benefits.
First Nations are in a unique position to take the lead with expansion of the industry and have much to offer to potential partnerships. First Nations not only have access to production sites but, in many cases, the necessary skills and infrastructure already exist in First Nation communities for aquaculture development because of past involvement in the traditional fisheries. Harry goes on to say “There are tremendous opportunities for First Nations, however support will be needed to address the ongoing challenges such as lack of capital and policy constraints.”
Aboriginal groups are poised to position themselves at the forefront of future aquaculture development within Canada. The AACI can assist interested Aboriginal groups in developing their vision for a sustainable aquaculture industry.
For more information about the AACI and services available visit the AAA website – www.aboriginalaquaculture.com