Recent surveys indicate that wild salmon are as important to the people of B.C. as the French language is to the people of Quebec, according to Doug Routley.
Routley, MLA for Nanaimo/North Cowichan, is the co-chairman of the province’s wild salmon advisory council that was appointed by Premier John Horgan last year to provide insight and guidance on protecting provincial salmon stocks, while maximizing the value of the resource.
Routley said, being a British Columbian himself, he knows and appreciates the value of wild salmon to the province and that motivated him as he participated in discussions with stakeholders around the province over the last several months as the wild salmon advisory council prepares to table a report for the provincial government with recommendations late in February.
The report is also intended to be used by the federal government to help determine their next steps to help deal with dwindling salmon stocks in B.C.
“Premier Horgan has made it clear that he wants rapid action on the strategies to protect and enhance our wild salmon stocks that the council will recommend in the council’s report,” Routley said.
“The premier wants the report tabled so it can be on the legislative calendar for the spring session, with some of the recommendations possibly included in the new budget.”
An initial report by the council that was tabled in October indicated that while it’s difficult to pinpoint the state of salmon in the province, it’s clear that across all regions and species, overall abundance has declined since the 1950s.
The report stated that poor marine survival rates, changing ocean conditions, habitat loss and inadequate water quality are all taking a toll on salmon.
The council made 14 recommendations for a made-in-B.C. strategy to protect the salmon, including restoring habitat, increasing production of juvenile salmon, supporting value-added fishing opportunities and tourism and working with indigenous communities on harvest and conservation goals.
After tabling the report, the council began holding a series of community engagement sessions around the province to hear directly from British Columbians regarding the recommendations that were made.
Routley said that with so many stakeholders with so many different and competing priorities, some of the sessions proved to be contentious at times.
“A lot of these stakeholders were on a collision course with each other when considering how best to deal with the challenges facing wild salmon,” he said.
“We have the province’s commercial fishermen and First Nations with their concerns around food, cultural and social issues, in addition to their own commercial interests, as well as recreational anglers and those with issues around headwaters and salmon nurseries. It was interesting to see all these people with competing interests during this crisis coming together and trying to find some compromises.”
Routley said that, as co-chairman of the council, he won’t presume at this time what the final recommendations will be that will be tabled with the report in February.
“There was a lot of different points of view expressed during this process, but the recommendations in this report will deal with the council’s three main goals; to increase the stocks of wild salmon, protect their habitats and increase revenue from our salmon resources for local communities and the province,” he said.