Today in the legislature my colleague, Sonia Furstenau, expanded upon our efforts in Question Period to pressure the BC Government to get open net fish farms out of the migratory paths of wild salmon. Below I reproduce her exchange with the Premier as well as our accompanying press release.
Sonia Furstenau presses Premier on wild salmon habitat protection
For immediate release
October 17, 2017
VICTORIA, B.C. – Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, pressed Premier Horgan on his government’s plans to protect wild salmon habitat in B.C. during question period today.
“Wild salmon are tremendously important to Northern and coastal communities, said Furstenau.
“Wild salmon in the Skeena River alone generate $110 million per year, and our sport fishing industry is produces revenues of $925 million and 8,400 direct jobs. But in 2009, the decline in the wild salmon run in the Fraser River was so severe it was classified as a catastrophic collapse. This year, salmon levels in the Fraser are approaching those same levels.
“Protecting our wild salmon stocks will require significant investment in habitat restoration. Will the Premier commit to meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau to advocate for the protection of our wild salmon stocks and to establish a joint provincial-federal strategy to phase out fish farms on migratory routes?”
The Premier responded that his government is committed to protecting B.C. wild salmon stocks, and that he will work with all levels of government and Indigenous leaders to ensure their protection.
As part of their role in opposition, the B.C. Green caucus members will continue to hold the government to account on its commitment to protect B.C.’s wild salmon, including its promise to phase out salmon farms along wild salmon migratory routes.
Jillian Oliver, Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | firstname.lastname@example.org
BC Green caucus
S. Furstenau: Wild salmon are tremendously important to coastal and northern communities. As the mayor of Smithers states: “It’s a wild salmon economy here.” The Skeena River alone generates up to $110 million per year, while sports fishing in B.C. produced revenues of $925 million, contributing $325 million to B.C.’s GDP and 8,400 direct jobs.
In a 2013 article, the MLA from Stikine valley, now the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and Northern Development, was quoted, saying “wild salmon habitat deserves local, regional, provincial, national and global protection because there is nothing like it remaining in the world.”
My question is to the Premier. Saving B.C.’s wild salmon will require a massive investment in habitat restoration. Is your government prepared to make this investment, particularly given the crucial role that wild salmon plays in B.C.’s economy?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for her question. We had some questions yesterday around salmon in British Columbia, and I’m delighted to focus on wild salmon, wild pacific salmon, which are the lifeblood of many communities, as the member said.
In my own community of Langford–Juan de Fuca, fishing in Sooke and Port Renfrew is a vital part of the economy that we see, certainly, during the summer. I had the good fortune of being on the San Juan River with the Pacheedaht First Nation to observe their food fishery, not seven days ago. The power of salmon is in all of us, and I think that every member of this House would agree.
With respect to the question about salmon restoration, certainly, upstream is the responsibility of the provincial government. We need to make sure that we are rehabilitating streams after logging practices — some good, some bad. But we also have to make sure that we’re working with partners.
The member for Skeena raised some questions yesterday with respect to Indigenous people and what their relationship is with salmon. We need to make sure the federal government is at the table with dollars to make sure that they’re meeting their obligations as well.
I’d also say that I think all members, if you’re not aware of the important salmon enhancement work that’s being done up and down the coast to bring more salmon into play, not just for food fishery, not just for commercial and sport fisheries but for orcas and other mammals that depend on the salmon….
I think that we can all do well, when the estimates for the member for Stikine and the minister responsible for Agriculture come up, to embrace and support the notion of salmon enhancement and making sure that we’re doing restoration in our streambeds.
S. Furstenau: In 2009, the Fraser River sockeye return was so low, it was regarded as a catastrophic collapse. The Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was launched. Three years later it produced 75 recommendations on how we could restore and protect wild salmon. At the time, Justice Cohen stated: “salmon farms should not be permitted to operate unless it is clear they pose no more than a minimal risk to the Fraser River sockeye salmon.”
This year the Fraser River sockeye are returning at nearly the same catastrophically low levels as in 2009. We are in an emergency. My question is to the Premier.
I appreciate you recognizing the need to work with the federal government.
Will the Premier meet with Prime Minister Trudeau to actively advocate for B.C.’s wild salmon and establish a coordinated, provincial-federal strategy to responsibly phase out open-net fish farms on migratory routes?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member again for her question.
The Minister of Agriculture met with the Minister of Fisheries just last week to raise the issues of open-net-pen fish farms in migratory routes, which is counter to the recommendations of Cohen.
Cohen has been endorsed, I believe, by the members on the other side as well as the current federal government and the government of the day here in British Columbia. It’s my view that we need to make sure that we’re working with all of the stakeholders, as articulated by the member for Skeena yesterday.
This issue didn’t arrive yesterday. The member has given us an historical note back to 2009 and the beginning of the Cohen investigation. But we’ve had challenges with wild fish and the integration with Atlantics, or invasive species in the minds of some, for some 25 to 30 years.
This issue will not solved be overnight. But I commit to this member and all members of this House and all British Columbians that wild salmon are paramount on this side and, I believe, throughout this Legislature. I’m going to do my level best to work with every level of government and all Indigenous people to protect wild salmon.