Community Profile: Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation, BC (Salmon)

First Nations in British Columbia are diversifying into fish farming and cultivation, as well as seafood processing and packaging. These industries are opportunities for employment and economic growth in Aboriginal communities and contribute to long-term business sustainability.

Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nation in the community of Klemtu has formed a joint venture with Marine Harvest Canada to farm and process salmon. The processing plant and fish farms have been an economic boon to the community. Today, salmon aquaculture operations contribute about $1.5 million in annual wages to workers, and more salmon is harvested and processed each week than was produced in an entire year at the pre-partnership farm.

In the partnership, the community maintains local ownership of the salmon farms and runs their own environmental monitoring program to ensure long-term sustainability of their operations. A customized and accredited six-month aquaculture training program was also developed and implemented through the partnership, resulting in the graduation of twelve Kitasoo people; many of whom still work in the business. Members of the Band continue to be given opportunities and training to rise to management positions at the farms, and young First Nations workers are developing skills and knowledge of the industry that are transferable to other jobs.

As reported in True to their visions: An account of 10 successful Aboriginal businesses, a 2009 Conference Board of Canada report:

Today, Klemtu community members are happier and healthier, and have one of the biggest retention rates of all coastal bands. Ben Robinson, General Manager, Kitasoo Seafoods, said that this is largely due to the greater number of job opportunities created by businesses such as Kitasoo Aqua Farms and Kitasoo Seafoods in the community. They employ approximately 60 people, who are paid about $2,500 monthly. This has inspired others to work. Today, almost 60 per cent of community members are employed. And they have more diverse job opportunities. In addition to the many other service-level jobs with the band office, store, school, and public works, they can work for the seafood plant, the salmon farm, the harvest and transport vessel, or newly developed businesses in tourism and forestry.”