Ducking out of the heavy May rain to take a call about salmon returns, Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society (TSES) manager Doug Palfrey expressed his thanks to Ahousaht for another big donation.
On April 29, Ahousaht Chief Richard George and Ahousaht member Tyler Huebner of TCH Contracting presented the TSES a cheque for $12,000 to help with day-to-day operations of the Tofino Hatchery. About a year ago, they gave the hatchery $10,000.
In the same breath of gratitude for the funds from Ahousaht, Palfrey berates Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) for skirting their responsibilities to the Tofino Hatchery – and for their general mismanagement of the entire salmon fishery.
“For the last 30 years, we’ve only gotten $8,000 from DFO. It’s the community members that keep us going. DFO hasn’t stepped forward… They haven’t even kept up with inflation,” Palfrey told the Westerly.
The TSES was formed in 1985 to rebuild diminishing salmon returns in several rivers in Clayoquot Sound. According to Palfrey, who has been with the non-profit since the beginning, TSES operates on a yearly budget of less than $50,000. The donation from Ahousaht will give the hatchery the ability to put 65,000 Chinook up the Bedwell River.
Palfrey says the Chum returns this year are extremely low. The Coho seem to be okay (likely due to the reduction in Sport catch, he says), but the Chinook returns to Cypre River this year were less than 20.
“It was a pretty hollow feeling,” said Palfrey. “We are all after the same thing. We want to see more fish in the spawning beds. At the local level, people understand what’s going on.”
Ahousaht Chief George spoke.
“We are stepping up to the plate knowing that the collapse of wild salmon is real. We are addressing it on our side. That cheque of $12,000 is going towards salmon stock,” said George.
“Eight thousand dollars a year is not very much when you think of the collapse of the salmon industry and the state that we are in right now. Every dollar is counted and needed. (The Federal Government) took billions and billions of dollars of forestry wood out of our hahouthlee (territory), but out of that they never ever did give back to this day,” he said.
Tyler Huebner operates a cedar salvage program with guidance from Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society (MHSS), an Ahousaht organization established by Chiefs and council to develop economic opportunities within their territory. Huebner’s company picks up old cedars left by poor logging practices and generates revenue from selling the salvaged wood.
“I’m just trying to put back into the communities. I don’t see there being a huge future in (salvaging wood), but it’s going good right now so we might as well do some donating,” said Huebner.
DFO media relations advisor Leri Davies said the Salmonid Enhancement Program supports the Tofino Hatchery in a variety of ways, in addition to $8,000 annually through the Community Involvement Contribution Program.
“Additional support is provided by the Community Advisor, Stock Assessment, a CIP RP Biologist and other sectors within DFO who provide biological and technical support for the program. When available, other financial support is provided to support infrastructure, equipment and programming,” said Davies in an email.
The Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society is one of 30 Community involvement groups listed in the Central West Coast of Vancouver Island region to receive DFO funding. See list of Community involvement groups in the region.