The owners of Nanaimo’s St. Jean’s Cannery and 30 other Indigenous commercial fishing companies in B.C. are sharing $11.8 million in federal funding to grow their operations.
Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray was in Nanaimo on Wednesday, Feb. 23, to announce the funding, delivered as part of the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative.
Murray said her government is committed to respect, recognition of rights, and partnership with Indigenous people.
“This is something we’ve taken to heart at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and we’re working every day to foster a model of shared stewardship, to increase First Nations involvement in fisheries and fisheries management,” she said.
St. Jean’s Cannery, owned by Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood Limited Partnership, is using federal funding along with its own money to purchase a new packaging machine to assist with processing, sales and marketing capacity, according to a press release from the ministry.
Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood is receiving $1.275 million as part of a three-year agreement to support acquisition of groundfish licences and quota “in support of increasing revenue generation for community harvesters” and $130,000 to support operational expenses, the release noted.
Gary Wilson, CEO of the Kyuquot/Checleseht First Nations group of businesses, an owner of Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood, said the PICFI program has enabled First Nations to regain access to fisheries, to become re-engaged in the commercial fishery and aquaculture industries, and to participate and benefit directly and indirectly. The initiative, he said, expands opportunities to engage “on a fully integrated scale from deck to dish.”
“Seafood and access to seafood is critical to the cultural traditions and economic practices of … all First Nations along the coast, and has been since time immemorial,” Wilson said.
Jennifer Woodland, CEO of Nuu-chah-nulth Seafood, said PICFI has helped her company achieve the goals of its diversification plan.
“When you invest in First Nations business, the benefit doesn’t just go to those First Nations…” she said. “The minister was able to come in and look at the 100 people working in our processing plant. Investment in Indigenous business is actually of benefit to us all.”
The ministry press release says the 31 Indigenous commercial fishing companies receiving funding represent 117 First Nations.