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New First Nations Investments: Sustainable Scallops in Prince Rupert and an Oceans Forum for Haida Gwaii

The Coastal Shellfish Corporation delivered their first harvest of Great Bear Scallops to Fukusaka restaurant in Prince Rupert. Photo by Michael Uehara.

From a scallop farm in Prince Rupert to an oceans forum on Haida Gwaii, First Nations are innovating unique approaches to stewardship and economic development throughout the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii.

In the first quarter of 2019, Coast Funds’ board of the directors approved $1.7 million in funding for 11 First Nations-led projects.  This brings total investment in the Great Bear Rainforest and Haida Gwaii to $83.3 million for 364 projects since the inception of Coast Funds. (See the full list of approved projects here.)

“This has been another exciting start to a new year for Coast Funds with a number of new investments in communities announced today,” said Brodie Guy, executive director of Coast Funds. “First Nations continue to lead the way towards a sustainable coastal economy while also expanding ecological and cultural stewardship efforts as we see with Wei Wai Kum First Nation’s program start-up this year.”

At Coastal Shellfish, scallops are grown sustainably right from the larvae stage. Photo by Laura Hope.

In Prince Rupert, Metlakala First Nation is continuing to expand Coastal Shellfish Corporation. This quarter, they invested in the development of a shellfish aquaculture industry by acquiring and refitting a boat specialized for work on a sustainable scallop farm. The vessel allows for work on subsurface scallops longlines, seeding juvenile scallops, and sorting and harvesting mature scallops.

By expanding Coastal Shellfish’s farming operations, Metlakala First Nation is providing additional employment opportunities and increase scallop sales revenue—a sustainable source of income for the Nation.

In mid-February, Coastal Shellfish sent out their first-ever harvest of “Great Bear Scallops.” CEO Michael Uehara is hoping the Metlakatla business will help make Prince Rupert the scallop capital of the continent.

“It’s been kind of a dream for coastal First Nations to establish an economy based on the ocean,” said Uehara in a CBC interview.  “While this is a company, it’s really about spawning an industry here.”

First Nations continue to lead the way towards a sustainable coastal economy while also expanding ecological and  and cultural stewardship efforts.

On Haida Gwaii, Coast Funds supported the Council of the Haida Nation in developing Gaaysiigang Sding: Making Waves Ocean Forum. The forum, which runs March 1 and 2 in HlG̲aagilda (Skidegate), follows up on the 2009 ocean forum at Gaaysiigang to celebrate achievements since then and plan best course of action for implementing marine and integrated management plans on Haida Gwaii.

The Microscopic Marine Life Art Project was created by Haida Gwaii Marine Planning Outreach Coordinator and local artist Judy Hilgemann, to raise awareness in local youth about local and global marine issues. Pictured here are algae cells by grade 12 student Anika Hilgeman. See more on the Gaaysiigang Sding gallery page.

Through engagement focused on culture, stewardship and economic diversification, the forum aims to achieve three primary objectives:

  1. Report on actions taken to implement the 2009 forum recommendations.
  2. Produce a dialogue and methods around implementing Haida Gwaii marine and integrated management plans.
  3. Identify barriers, solutions, and next steps at the individual, community, and government levels to move forward with implementation.

Keynote speakers include Hone Mihaka, a Maori historian from Aotearoa New Zealand, and Josie Osborne, mayor of Tofino, BC.

Other First Nations-led projects funded in February include:

Mamalilikulla First Nation: Guardian Watchman Program – 2019 Operations

to support continued regional monitoring operations in the Broughton Archipelago with ongoing investment in new Guardian Watchman infrastructure on Village Island as well as continued aquaculture-related intertidal assessments specifically for butter clams, little necks and cockles, research at Port Elizabeth on invasive blue mussels, water chemistry analysis throughout the territory in partnership with Hakai Research Institute, continued kelp and eelgrass surveys, and ongoing contribution to the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network

Wei Wai Kum First Nation: Stewardship Program – 2019 Start-up

to initiate and operate a Stewardship and Guardian Watchman Program throughout Wei Wai Kum territories for seven months, to staff the new program, expanding monitoring research in the Heydon Bay Lake watershed in Loughborough Inlet with a particular focus on salmon enumeration, data collection, and habitat restoration initiatives

Metlakatla First Nation: Conservancy Management and Lands Guardian Program – 2019/20 Operations

to continue operations of the newly formed Environmental Stewardship Initiatives Department, establishing Metlakatla’s Lands-based Guardian program, focusing its conservancy management efforts on Ksgaxl/Stephens Island, Lucy Island, Khtada Lake, and Kyex Conservancy and consultation with other First Nations for at least four other plans drafted in 2018

Metlakatla First Nation: Coastal Shellfish Corporation – Scallop Farm Infrastructure Expansion

to further Metlakatla First Nation’s development of a shellfish aquaculture industry on the North Coast through Coastal Shellfish LP by acquiring and refitting a specialized vessel for working on subsurface scallops longlines, seeding juvenile scallops, sorting and harvesting mature scallops in order to expand the farming operations, provide additional employment opportunities, and increase scallop sales revenue

Nisga’a Lisims Government: Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a PR/PE Society – Wilp-Sihoon Commercial Smokehouse Start-up – Phase 2

to complete the Nisga’a Nation’s investment in the start-up of a commercial smokehouse facility for sustainably harvested Nisga’a seafood products in Prince Rupert, including completion of all regulatory requirements and investment in training of new staff to operationalize the business in 2019

Nisga’a Lisims Government: Start-up of Nisga’a Tourism Corporation

to invest in the start-up of Nisga’a Tourism Corporation to serve as a destination marketing organization for the Nass Valley that operates pre-packaged Indigenous cultural tourism experiences marketed to an international audience; the new company’s Circle Tours are designed to drive business for local entrepreneurs, Hli Goothl Wilp-Adokshl Nisga’a (the Nisga’a Museum), the community-owned Vetter Falls Lodge, and more

Heiltsuk Nation: Predevelopment for Construction of Bella Bella Airport

to fund predevelopment surveys and site preparation that will enable Heiltsuk Tribal Council and Heiltsuk Economic Development Corporation raise significant public infrastructure investment to expand the airport terminal in Bella Bella, modernizing this vital transportation hub that is relied on by community members, commercial operators, and government agencies for accessing BC’s central coast region

We Wai Kai Nation: Geoduck Tenure Acquisition and Shellfish Aquaculture Development

to create a plan for investment in scallop, seaweed and geoduck aquaculture, to acquire geoduck tenures that support future investments and commercial partnerships for We Wai Kai, and to trial oyster and abalone shellfish aquaculture in We Wai Kai territory

Wuikinuxv Nation: Waanukv Silver Sockeye Economic Opportunity Fishery Business Start-up

to invest in the start-up Waanukv Silver LP, under the management of Wuikinuxv Economic Development Corporation, to establish a community-based fishery with two economic opportunity fishing licenses for four families in Rivers Inlet, targeting up to 15% of the sockeye salmon return on the Waanukv River, and supporting the community-based fishery as a broker and processor supporting the families that will lease to-own their vessels

Ulkatcho First Nation: Residual Wood Fibre Recovery Business Start-up

to create a new line of business that recovers wood fibre residues that are otherwise left in the forest from commercial logging operations and burned, and instead harvest this unused wood fibre and supplying it to commercial pulp and paper facilities, diversifying the company’s revenue streams and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Ulkatcho territory