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Kitasoo First Nation is hoping to expand

PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. - The Kitasoo First Nation is waiting to hear whether it can expand its joint aquaculture venture by two more sites.

Under the joint venture with Marine Harvest Canada, Kitasoo Seafood processed about one million Atlantic salmon from two farm sites in 2006.

"Clearly, this is a remarkable success story and it is one we want to build on," said Percy Starr, a member of the band council.

"But we need these two new sites, and unfortunately the for approval process is dead slow. It was so slow in the past that we were unable to stock young salmon in 2003 or to process fish in 2005.

"Unless our new applications are approved by mid-March we face the same problem in 2007 _ no smolts, no production. The loss of these processing jobs and the $1 million payroll that goes along with them would be a big blow to our community."

Fifteen Kitasoo worked full-time on the farms, another 30 worked full-time in the processing plant during its 10-month operating schedule and seven more worked on the Kitasoo-owned harvest vessel during those 10 months.

Starr said the farms operate in harmony with local wild salmon stocks as well as with the crabs, seals, whales and dolphins that share the waters.

"For centuries, the Kitasoo people had a close connection to the sea. This connection was lost for a generation when the commercial salmon fishery collapsed and our boats were tied up.

"Aquaculture is giving this connection back to us and with this connection has come a sense of purpose and a belief in the future."

Starr called on Premier Gordon Campbell, Agriculture Minister Pat Bell and the province in general to recognize how important the approval is to the health and future of the Kitasoo community and not to delay it any further.

NDP members of the special committee on sustainable aquaculture have demanded that no approvals be handed out to any aquaculture sites until a bi-partisan report is issued sometime before May 31.

the Fish Site Editor

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