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Building a Successful Commercial Fishing Company

Fishing the diverse and abundant waters of the North Pacific Coast has supported shareholder First Nations for thousands of years—a constant source of sustenance, culture and livelihoods for coastal people.

For the past several decades, coast-wide commercial fisheries have given far too little back to the people who depend on them most. Developing an Indigenous-owned commercial fishing company in this region is long overdue, and a critical step in ensuring marine resources will sustain shareholder Nations into the future.

A key imperative for the CNF commercial fishing company is to make fishing once again a stable form of employment for citizens of shareholder Nations—not by replicating unsustainable industry models, but by being a sustainably operated company that reinvests profits back into coastal communities.

A year into this collective effort, we have made great progress in rebuilding the conditions that will increase commercial access and fisheries revenue for all shareholder First Nations. Our goal is to uphold the inherent right of each Nation’s citizens to derive economic benefit from commercial fishing, while prioritizing stewardship and promoting fishing practices that balance ecological health with economic prosperity.

That means working closely with community members like James Lawson, a career fisherman who belongs to the Raven Crest of Heiltsuk. James partnered with CNF to harvest our geoduck quota on his vessel, “Nakut,” and brings his vast wealth of knowledge and experience to the work. “I have been supporting myself through commercial fishing since I was 13 years old, starting on half share, and continue to fish to this day,” he says. “I decided to be a fisherman like my father and his father before him.”

James’ extensive and varied fishing experience reflects his lifelong connection to coastal waters—from working as a skipper in a salmon seine, and harvesting herring by gillnet and seine, to harvesting prawns and urchins by scuba dive and geoducks by surface-supplied dive. He is also the current elected president of the United Fishermen & Allied Worker’s Union (UFAWU-Unifor) and has been outspoken about the need to improve conditions for coastal fishers for years.

“You will struggle to find more passionate wardens of the sea than those who have invested their lives into it,” James told members of the Fisheries and Oceans Committee, during his address to Parliament in 2018. That’s the underlying truth at the heart of the CNF commercial fishing company—a recognition that increasing access and opportunities for citizens of shareholder Nations to be successful in the commercial fishing sector is more than just an end in itself.

When fishers from shareholder Nations can make an honest living in fishing, it naturally leads to a range of other positive benefits, including improved economic, social and community wellbeing. It also leads to healthier coastal ecosystems and fisheries over time, because those who live here have the most to gain by keeping it healthy.

Building a successful commercial fishing company is a foundational pillar of CNF, along with ongoing support for Nation-led community-based fisheries.

As we continue to grow our operations and establish new partnerships with coastal fishers like James and others, our priorities will always reflect the needs of shareholder Nations. That means creating the conditions that help community members participate more fully in the coast-wide fisheries sector while continuing to access to new markets and opportunities.

geoduck harvest
James Lawson, skipper and Heiltsuk Nation citizen, brings home the geoduck.


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