I tell salmon stories often. I am a Brentwood kid who grew up on the water; just one in a long line to fish the Salish Sea. We come by it honestly, descendants of the Coast Salish reef-netters, the Pacific salmon are part of our family.
So many of us who live in Saanich North and the Islands, the riding I represent, have fished these waters. Salmon are a vitally important renewable resource and have been nurturing our coast for thousands of years.
The Saanich Inlet was once a plentiful salmon spot. Whether you are a multi-generational British Columbian or you have just arrived on the west coast, you likely have salmon close to your heart. But with every passing day, and each new generation of British Columbians, the power of the wild Pacific salmon is quietly diminishing. Our shifting baseline of what is normal for wild salmon returns to our rivers is slipping from millions to thousands, thousands to hundreds, hundreds to dozens.
Salmon runs in our area are crashing. The Chilcotin and Thompson steelhead fishery is on the brink of extinction. The threats to fish stocks are many - habitat and ecosystem degradation, poor management, fish farms and climate change.
Over the course of the Spring Legislative Session I have dedicated a large portion of my work in the Legislature to salmon policy. I have learned that six Ministries all have a “leading role” in addition to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. From a provincial perspective, we need much better coordination.
So, I have made it my mission to speak for the salmon in the BC Legislature; raising their challenges in question period and canvassing the Ministries with salmon jurisdiction in estimates. Nearly every Minister’s answer has been some version of… ‘I care about wild salmon too, but, unfortunately, that’s not my job.’
Amidst the finger pointing and confusion about who is doing what, I have found a possible path forward – BC needs to establish a Wild Salmon Secretariat or Commissioner to streamline all the work being done within the BC government and – importantly – be a strong defender of wild salmon in negotiations with the federal government. After all, good salmon policy is good environmental, social and economic policy.
I will continue to tell my salmon story and talk to people about theirs, so we don’t forget how our coasts and rivers used to run deep with salmon. We cannot let decimated salmon stocks become the new normal.
MLA Saanich North and the Islands
Spokesperson for wild salmon, BC Green Caucus