April 29, 2004 – MEDIA RELEASE
CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C – The Xwémalhkwu First Nation and the Georgia Strait Alliance today announced the signing of a protocol agreement outlining how the two groups will work together on marine restoration and protection initiatives in Bute Inlet and its surrounding waters.
“Wild salmon are integral to our culture and to the well being of Bute Inlet,” said Chief Darren Blaney. “Signing this protocol with the Georgia Strait Alliance is another step towards protecting and restoring this precious resource in our traditional territory. We want to continue to build bridges as we work towards economic development that does not put our marine environment, and the industries that depend upon it, at risk.”
“We are very pleased to be addressing resource use issues in partnership with the Xwémalhkwu First Nation and look towards continued relationship building and information gathering with other stakeholders in the area,” remarked Jim Manly, Board President of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “Xwémalhkwu and the Georgia Strait Alliance have recently collaborated with researchers studying the interactions of sea-lice between wild and farmed salmon. We hope to help address the lack of research on the impacts of net cage fish farming that exists in the lower Johnstone Strait and Bute Inlet area.”
Bute Inlet cuts 75 kilometers into the mainland and is located 50 kilometers northeast of Campbell River. Since 2001 the area has been proposed as an alternate location for environmentally problematic salmon farms in Alberni Inlet and Barkley Sound. The proposal has met stiff opposition from key stakeholders including the Xwémalhkwu First Nation, local communities, the commercial and sports fishing sectors, the eco-tourism industry and the Comox Strathcona Regional District, which denied zoning for the proposed sites in August of 2001.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is currently conducting an environmental assessment of the proposed Downie Range site, located in lower Bute Inlet. In addition, final recommendations of the Johnstone-Bute Coastal Plan, a provincial planning process designed to identify acceptable uses in the designated area, are expected shortly. Although the Johnstone-Bute Coastal Plan Advisory Committee has recommended the area of lower Bute Inlet as unsuitable for finfish aquaculture, the recommendations of the committee are still subject to ministerial sign-off. Approval of the Downie Range site would contravene provincial criteria that require siting to be consistent with approved local government bylaws for land use planning and zoning.
“We are hopeful that the Minister of Sustainable Resource Management will abide by the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and resolve this ongoing conflict,” said Eric Blueschke, Local Outreach Coordinator of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “We wish to move forward and work collaboratively towards the restoration, protection and sustainability of Bute Inlet.”