History has shown there are many barriers to economic development by First Nations communities across the country. Land titles and limited conventional sources of capital are often beyond the reach of most First Nations communities, but the tide is turning on those barriers.
The Scia’new First Nation band at Beecher Bay in East Sooke is actively seeking ways to bring more employment to their community. They already have a 160 slip marina which they own and operate and now they are seeking to partner up with an aquaculture company to start a hatchery and processing plant.
Chief Russ Chipps, along with the band’s economic development officer, met with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Nanaimo last week to see if it was possible to fast track an application for a hatchery licence.
The Beecher Bay band is looking at a 50/50 partnership with Wen Lian Aquaculture Co. Ltd., which would see the band provide 1.6 hectares of land, a processing plant, labour and some future profits. Wen Lian would provide the seed and expertise in farming sea cucumbers, along with an investment of $1.7-million. Wen Lian would retain ownership of the hatchery. The company has a hatchery in Royston where they specialize in scallop, geoduck and sea cucumber which they export overseas.
Chipps said the meeting with DFO, “went well.”
Wen Lian was looking to fast track the licence application as they wanted to began production for the 2013 season and they only had a six week window.
“They (DFO) are willing to approach it, they are going to look at it,” said Chipps on May 1. “DFO is willing to partner up in any capacity.”
One of the band’s priorities is to be stewards of the bay and enhancing it.
“We want to make sure it grows and comes back,” said Chipps.
He said the community is remote and job opportunities are even more remote for the 235 band members.
With this partnership the band can look at about four jobs initially, but with the opportunity for more further down the road. He said that with any jobs and training the Scia’new would have first right of refusal and that is crucial for the small band.
“This will bring jobs to the community,” said Chipps. “They are needed around here. Jobs bring self-esteem.”