Mike Hicks of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council opens a community meeting held in Port Alberni to gather public input on rebuilding B.C.’s declining Pacific salmon. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

B.C. must take lead on salmon preservation, say west coast fishers

Land-based fish farming, focus on small streams put forth as two solutions

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

Representatives of B.C.’s Wild Salmon Advisory Council told a Port Alberni audience that B.C. must assert greater authority over Pacific salmon in order to reverse a steady decline of stocks.

The council was appointed in June by Premier John Horgan to develop strategy for restoring and sustaining wild salmon.

“The premier essentially said, ‘Grow more fish,’” said Nanaimo MLA Doug Routley, inviting input from about 40 people at Echo Centre Thursday night (Dec. 6). “It is the foundational species in our province.”

Although wild chinook stocks are in greatest jeopardy, all five main species have been in general decline for years. Some blame the federal government for failing to property steward the resource, a chronic complaint that has brought renewed pressure from B.C. for a greater hand in bringing back the stocks.

“We’re also meant to unify stakeholders’ voices in the province in order to go to Ottawa and seek more management authority for salmon stocks,” Routley said.

Routley acknowledged the hard work of DFO staff, adding: “Sometimes there’s a disconnect between here and Ottawa … If we want regulatory change, this is what has to be done.”

One of their proposals is to reinstate a B.C. government ministry dedicated to anadromous fish species, a portfolio that was scrapped by the Campbell Liberal government shortly after it came to power, he said. The council endorses Bill C-68 — a modernization of the Fisheries Act expected to pass into law before year’s end — as a critical step in restoring wild stocks, creating economic opportunities through sustainable, community-based fisheries and involving the B.C. government and First Nations in the solutions.

Dave Edwards, a Ucluelet commercial fisherman, called Ottawa’s catch allocation policy “a massive failure” and noted that B.C. is the only maritime province in Canada without a “ministry of fish.” The current approach is neither transparent nor inclusive, he said.

“I implore the provincial government to show leadership with a balanced approach,” Edwards said.

Andy Webster, a native commercial fisherman, said he’s glad the province is stepping up. He wants to see greater attention paid to the many small streams along the west coast, many of which are depleted but still bear high production potential.

Similarly, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council fisheries manager Eric Angel applauded B.C.’s initiative: “We want you at the table,” he said, referring to fishery management roundtables. “We want you participating and bringing some money to this. The biggest single absence at the table is the province.”

There was no doubt in Floyd Campbell’s mind what needs to be done: Move fish farms from marine to land-based operations. Sea lice were once rare but now it’s rare to find fish without them, said the Ahousaht fisherman. Others called for more small-scale hatcheries along the west coast and pointed to the need for major stream rehabilitation efforts to mitigate continuing destruction through logging and roadbuilding practices.

Sheena Falconer of West Coast Aquatic Stewardship Society said habitat restoration and water quality analysis are hindered by restrictive grant requirements. She said many streams have deteriorated to a point where riparian planting alone won’t restore productivity.

“There are too many competing interests for waterfront. Fish aren’t going to win,” she said.

Grant Watts of Tseshaht First Nation blamed climate change and rising stream temperatures for catches that are a small fraction of what they once were.

The council also heard from a government employee. Elliott Molsberry said a high-level review of the Forest and Range Practices Act is badly needed.

“I can’t go out and enforce the legislation because of the way it’s written,” he said.

Just Posted

Intern gives Port Alberni’s museum artifacts an update

St. John’s man travelled more than 7,000 kms to assist with curatorial duties

Port Alberni’s Kari Trott set to shine at Canada Winter Games

Trott is one of two Special Olympics BC figure skaters invited to the national event

BCHL: Bulldogs’ Hawthorne commits to NCAA Wildcats

20-year-old goaltender earns scholarship to play Div. 1 hockey next year

Port Alberni realtor trekking the Sahara Desert in support of ACAWS

Chris Fenton of The Fenton Team will spend five days hiking in the Sahara Desert

Strong winds up to 100 km/h for parts of Vancouver Island

Wind warning in effect for north, east and west Vancouver Island into Saturday morning

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

Parksville addictions treatment advocate to speak in Port Alberni

Recovering addict Kelly seeks to share more of her story with second event

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

Most Read