British Columbia

Tlowitsis Nation signs net-cleaning contract with Grieg Seafood, servicing salmon farms in Clio Channel

“This opportunity will enhance the already great relationship the Tlowitsis has with Grieg Seafood. When it comes to reconciliation, we think Grieg Seafood is ahead of the curve in developing its working relationship with First Nations.” – Thomas Smith, Councillor, Tlowitsis Nation

On May 14, the Tlowitsis Nation and Grieg Seafood BC signed a contract that will see the Nation’s business, Chief’s Pride Aquaculture Corp., assume responsibility of all net-cleaning operations at Grieg’s salmon farms in Clio Channel commencing June.

There are three Grieg farms in Tlowitsis territory, named Noo-la, Wa-kwa and Tsa-ya, which are Kwak’wala for ‘big brother, little sister’, and ‘little brother’.

The contract includes a five-year lease of net-cleaning equipment, a skiff, and crane barge. As part of on-site operations, Chief’s Pride employees will join Grieg’s staff in their accommodation barge in Clio Channel which will provide kitchen, laundry and fitness facilities during their shifts.

“The Tlowitsis are always looking for opportunities that will benefit the Nation monetarily and provide potential jobs for our members,” said Thomas Smith, Councillor for the Nation.

“As much as there seems to be controversy about the business, we believe many First Nations should be looking at long-term relationships with salmon farming partners. There are only so many opportunities available, and most of the Nations have traditional territories adjacent to the inlet waters – it only makes sense. As a participant in the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance’s Indigenous Partnership Network, it looks like more Nations will be looking at aquaculture in the future.”

A sign displayed on a Clio Channel salmon farm that shows the partnership between the Tlowitsis Nation and Grieg Seafood.

Grieg has farmed in Tlowitsis’ territory in agreement since 2014, however this new business venture offers another opportunity for both parties to expand their partnership.

“We’re really trying as a company to learn about, and advance, reconciliation with First Nations, and this allows us to do so with a trusted partner,” said Rocky Boschman, Managing Director of Grieg BC.

“We need to move beyond traditional benefits agreements and find other ways that we can work closer together.”

Trevor Gatzke, Grieg’s Business Development Manager and Grieg’s representative overseeing the contract, approached the Tlowitsis in late January with the net-cleaning contract idea and a goal to work with the Nation so they could “have a stake in the game” supporting salmon farming in their own territory.

Prior to coming to Grieg, Gatzke often sat with Nations across the table from oil and gas companies, which he says has given him the insight, experience, and knowledge to try to advance reconciliation and relationships for everyone.

“I’ve never worked with a company that is as transparent with their First Nations partners as Grieg,” Gatzke said. “Transparency doesn’t happen unless you’re honest about reconciliation.”

“This contract was developed with the Nation so they can profit directly. We’re contributing the equipment in a leasing arrangement, and they will bring the job opportunities to their members. This will be very beneficial for both Grieg Seafood and the Tlowitsis, and it also really cements our relationship.”

When he first sat down with Gatzke, Councillor Smith thought his Nation was presented with an opportunity like any other contractor; however, at the second meeting he realized that Grieg’s proposal was a unique one, built specifically for his Nation to share in the business of salmon farming independently, at Grieg’s salmon farms in their traditional territory.

For the Tlowitsis who are building a new community for their more than 400 members just south of Campbell River, the revenue and employment opportunity for their members is welcomed. The contract with Grieg was signed on May 14 in Campbell River attended by Chief John Smith joining Councillor Smith and representatives of Grieg Seafood.

“Grieg recognizes the responsibility of reconciliation, to work with and build opportunities with First Nations,” said Gatzke. “We operate our salmon farms in First Nations’ waters, and it’s our responsibility to work with those Nations. If we’re going to be successful, First Nations should share in that success with us. It’s that easy.”

The five-year net-cleaning contract will come into effect in June.

“This is an opportunity for the Tlowitsis to work closer with our partner,” Councillor Smith said, “And it will enhance the already great relationship the Nation has with Grieg Seafood.”

“When it comes to reconciliation, we think Grieg Seafood is ahead of the curve in developing its working relationships with First Nations.”