EDITORIAL: Alberni should be alarmed over DFO cuts

Salmon enhancement programs threatened

Salmon means everything to the Alberni Valley—the self-proclaimed Salmon Capital of the World (sorry, Campbell River, but it’s true) and the world-named Ultimate Fishing Town.

So when Fisheries Canada (DFO) announces funding cuts to an important stream-to-sea education program among others that support fish in fresh water, people need to sit up and take notice.

Stream-enhancement groups around the province of British Columbia are alarmed at the impending cuts, which number in the millions. The cuts are part of a review the fisheries department has undertaken on all its programs this year.

For the Alberni Valley, where sockeye salmon returns are expected to be at a critical low of 170,000 for the Somass River system this year, the news is not welcome.

Port Alberni has a popular salmonid enhancement program in schools. West Coast Aquatic, which manages the Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship Centre, has seen 500 students come through the museum in the month of June alone to learn about salmon habitat, to look at the net pen project on Centennial Pier (the salmon fry have been released now, but several thousand of them were hanging out in a net pen behind Swept Away Inn).

The program’s value is in teaching children why salmon is a vital resource, and why its habitat should be protected.

West Coast Aquatic has millions of dollars in proposed enhancement projects planned for the next decade, all designed to improve salmon habitat and increase the Somass salmon runs. The community’s economy depends on a healthy annual salmon run, from sportfishers and businesses like boating companies to indirect businesses like grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and hotels.

Federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc has said the DFO is working toward something “even better” than the salmonids in the classroom project that his father, former federal fisheries minister Romeo LeBlanc, created 40 years ago.

It’s difficult to believe there is something better than teaching children the value of something today that will be theirs to look after tomorrow.

Alberni Valley News