Unclear future for valuable salmon education program

Stream to Sea program could be cut after one more year in classrooms

A salmon education and enhancement program has an uncertain future, with the risk of being cut after one more year in classrooms.

At the end of May, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced a cut to the Stream to Sea program—a 30 year salmon enhancement program that educates thousands of students in B.C., along with other education and outreach programs from fish hatcheries.

The DFO announced that it has conducted a major review of its budget and will be cutting programs. Funding for the Stream to Sea program already planned for next September will remain in place for one more year.

The Stream to Sea program helps students learn to take care of salmon eggs and fry and release them into rivers and streams.

Sheena Falconer, executive director of West Coast Aquatic, said she is concerned about the future of the salmon in the classroom program.

“We’re not sure if there’s a plan in place. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see mode,” Falconer said.

“If there is not a plan in place to keep the salmon in the classroom program going (after one year), then we would be writing letters.”

Falconer said the program is very valuable for the Valley.

“Education about salmon is critical, especially the Stream to Sea program because it teaches children about the importance of keeping streams clean and how that relates to health of salmon,” she said.

The program was given a one-year extension and Falconer said she suspects the program will remain.

“I think with the amount of support that the program has received from everybody [the DFO] would probably not cut it,” she said. “Learning about salmon is critical because as you can see right now when we don’t have salmon runs it’s pretty devastating for the economy of our community, so we want to look after them the best possible way that we can.”

Falconer pointed out that with the low Sockeye salmon return expected for the Valley this year, not only will commercial fishermen and First Nations suffer, so will bears, eagles and other animals who rely on salmon for food.

Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, blasted the Liberal government for cancelling the Stream to Sea education program and failing to protect west coast salmon.

“The Liberal government’s decision to cancel this program is a slap in the face to British Columbians,” Johns said in the House of Commons. “Salmon is critical to our economy, our food security, our environment as well as the livelihood and culture of First Nations People.”

The decision comes in the middle of a reduction of this year’s sockeye run—the Valley is expected to less than 200,000 adult fish.

“This is a key component for conservation,” Johns said. “I’m very upset about this. It’s another slap in the face from the liberal government. We want to know why.”

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com