Water for fish

We build processes, capacity, and relationships to help First Nations in BC influence the integrated planning and management of Pacific fisheries and aquatic resources at the province-wide level.


FNFC’s Water for Fish freshwater initiative launched in 2012 to advance objectives in the BC First Nations Fisheries Action Plan under the theme of “Safeguarding Habitat and Responding to Threats”.

This initiative works to support First Nations in advancing freshwater governance, habitat protection, and management. The initiative’s intended impact is for First Nations in BC to be informed, resourced, and united to actively exercise governance and jurisdiction of freshwaters in their traditional territories. As such, the Water for Fish program convenes discussions and offers research, resources, analysis and general capacity support related to freshwater policy, programs, and legislation.

Our Achievements:

  • Established a First Nations Water Network of over 270 First Nations staff and leadership actively working to protect and manage freshwaters in their territories.
  • Established the BC First Nations Water Governance Roundtable in June 2017 to support engagement in planning, management, and governance of freshwater, and to facilitate a collective First Nations voice on freshwater.
  • Workshops, forums, and regular “Water Wednesday” webinars on freshwater planning, management, and governance issues.
  • Released Protecting Water Our Way: First Nations Freshwater Governance in British Columbia, a major research report featuring five case stories that pull out key elements of First Nations-led water planning and governance in British Columbia.
  • Collaborated on a major research initiative, Indigenous Watershed Initiatives and Co-Governance Arrangements: A British Columbia Systematic Review, with the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources.
  • Provided analysis and advice on engagement, impacts, and opportunities related to Crown policy and legislation on freshwater, including BC’s Water Sustainability Act.
  • Built meaningful collaborations with ENGO, academic, philanthropic, and Crown government partners.

Current and past funders of Water for Fish include the Real Estate Foundation of BC, BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, LUSH Charitable Giving, Sitka Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.



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Resources and publications

Water For Fish Brochure [2019]

“Water is life. It is our sacred duty to protect it for today and for our future generations." Learn about the Water For Fish project and how it contributes to habitat and environmental protection.

Towards a BC Watershed Security Fund [2021]

This report was developed by the Sustainable Funding Working Group, a group of 16 experts and knowledge holders in Indigenous governance, local government, funding and financing, forestry and land-use practices, and watershed management, including the FNFC.

Direction Paper: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and Water Sustainability Act Reform

This FNFC Direction Paper sets out why water and the Water Sustainability Act should be a priority for legislative reform under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Environmental Flow Needs: A Primer for BC First Nations [2020]

Environmental Flow Needs (EFNs) offer First Nations an important avenue to influence and make decisions about water licenses and water use in their territories. EFNs can also be an expression of Indigenous law and a condition for exercising Aboriginal and Treaty Rights to water and fish. This new resource from the FNFC’s Water for Fish initiative offers guidance on why and under what circumstances it may be valuable for First Nations to establish and implement EFNs for critical waters in their territories.

Towards a Water Sustainability Act First Nations Engagement Framework: Working Group Recommendations for Collaborative Development of Regulations and Policies [2019]

In 2018 the BC Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy provided the FNFC with grant funding to advise BC on an Engagement Framework to guide the development of the remaining Water Sustainability Act (WSA) regulations and policies in accordance with BC’s reconciliation commitments. As part of this work, the FNFC organized a series of meetings of a Working Group comprised of First Nations leadership and staff that hold relevant expertise in water governance. The Working Group recommendations were finalized in this report.

Statement of Requirements for Water Governance in British Columbia According to Crown Commitments to Reconciliation [2018]

Drafted by the BC First Nations Water Governance Roundtable, this document provides direction on the transformative measures required by the BC Government to fulfill reconciliation commitments and support the implementation of First Nations freshwater jurisdiction.

Backgrounder: Fresh Water and Crown Reconciliation Commitments

The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) and FNFC developed a Backgrounder to offer clarity on key questions that arise around UNDRIP and fresh water in BC.

Protecting Water Our Way: First Nations Freshwater Governance in British Columbia [2018]

Featuring a selection of five case stories that pull out key elements of First Nations-led water planning and governance in BC, this report is aimed at increasing the capacity, knowledge and understanding of First Nations staff and leadership.

Making Waves 2021 Survey of First Nations-Led Freshwater Management and Governance in British Columbia

The report provides findings of the 2021 First Nations Freshwater Management and Governance Survey in British Columbia and includes a snapshot of First Nations water management and activities today and into the future, high-level trends, and HR and financial capacity needs in communities.


JACQUELYNE FITCHELL, Sr. Manager, Habitat & Environmental Protection