Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns is urging the federal government to declare a wild salmon emergency in British Columbia.
Johns rose in the House of Commons via Zoom during March 25’s question period to lobby for more funding for wild salmon.
“Coastal First Nations and British Columbians need a government that will make historic investments in the conservation, protection and restoration of wild salmon habitats,” he said. “Will the minister declare a wild salmon emergency today and make the necessary investments in their budget to protect Pacific wild salmon?”
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan thanked Johns for the question and also thanked him for his “hard work and advocacy” for fisheries.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a species that’s in critical shape. We know that there are a lot of factors that are impacting our wild Pacific salmon, including climate change as well as the human impacts from contaminants and the changes in land and water use. That is why our government has invested $145 million in habitat restoration,” Jordan said. We’re going to continue to work with First Nations communities, provinces and territories to find the best solutions possible because we know how iconic this species is to British Columbia.”
She added that “there is more that needs to be done” and said she looked forward to working with Johns on solutions.
Johns told the Westerly News that the $145 million investment over five years is not enough to solve the crisis.
“That’s over five years. They need to invest that every year for the next five years. They need a five-fold increase to help bring back wild salmon. They need a wild salmon recovery strategy, a plan to bring wild salmon back,” he said. “They are making investments but it’s not even close to what’s necessary to close the gap and deal with the crisis right before us.”
Salmon returns have been down across the board in B.C. with dismal returns being reported in the Fraser River as well as historically abundant systems in Clayoquot Sound.
“It’s a desperate situation that we’re in…Wild Salmon is critical to our food security, for our economy, for our culture, for our way of life,” he said. “It will have a detrimental impact and massive decline of our ecosystem should Pacific salmon go the way of the Atlantic cod and it’s absolutely irresponsible for the federal government to sit idle on their hands and watch this collapse happen right before their eyes without taking the necessary action steps to prevent this from happening.”
Johns said a variety of organizations are ready and willing to help tackle the crisis through restoration projects, but those organizations need support and he added that more funding could help the province’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by creating employment opportunities in local communities.
“Our hatcheries still haven’t had a single increase in 28 years…Whether it be Dave Hurwitz and the folks out at (Ucluelet’s) Thornton Creek or Doug Palfrey in Tofino, they’ve been crying out for help and the federal government has abandoned them,” he said. “They need to unlock all the potential of our communities to help be part of the solution and they’re sitting idle. This is the minister that’s going to watch pacific salmon go the way of the Atlantic cod if we don’t see urgent action in this budget…You’ve got community groups literally offering thousands of hours to get out there and help rebuild stocks, but they need some resources and they’re getting denied.”
He suggested First Nations in his riding are vehemently urging him to fight for wild salmon recovery.
“There’s many issues that they’re facing, with overcrowded housing, child welfare, Indigenous languages, but the top issue always, no matter what, even above all the infrastructure and community needs, is always salmon. It’s the first thing they want to talk about, the important need and the sense of urgency around protecting, preserving and bringing back wild salmon to abundance,” he said.
“This is also a really important issue when it comes to tackling inequality because a lot of indigenous people rely on it for a food source and without it it’s having a huge impact on their ability to survive.”