We woke up at half-past four. The Briggs & Stratton powered clinkers were already warming in Brentwood Bay.
Guide boats from Jimmy Gilbert’s and Mike Keepence’s marina’s filled with tourists as we stood on the docks quietly chatting about the hotspots in the Saanich Inlet.
I have told the story 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 reefnetters, the Pacific salmon are part of our family.
It is why it is on my wedding ring, formed the circle of life as my campaign logo and shapes the art hung proudly on my walls. Like many British Columbians, I have #MySalmonStory.
Some stories evolve from a mostly modest morning, into a mythical tale of a mighty hero. An epic battle, man versus tyee, with four hundred feet of line rapidly unspooling in hand. Others, celebrate the elusive one that bounced free just seconds before the net could scoop it up.
They are stories of time spent silently bobbing at a gentle trawl, back and forth, forth and back, as the sun rose over the southern Gulf Islands. Sometimes we would talk, sometimes it was just the salty fresh air that filled the void.
These are the times that a “Chum” and his dad reminisce about. They are the mornings that filled our freezer with the protein of a wealthy people. They are the inspiration of my work in local and provincial politics.
The Saanich Inlet was once a plentiful salmon spot. When I was elected in Central Saanich, I began to understand more clearly that the we did not “fish out” the Inlet. But, that decisions made about our watersheds were a likely culprit. I became an advocate for stormwater management and a better relationship with our Inlet.
As an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearing for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, I highlighted substantive and unanswered questions about the unknown impact an oil spill would have on the gathering grounds of the Fraser River fishery in the Salish Sea.
Speaking for salmon…
Now I am an MLA in the B.C. Legislature, I continue to fight for the most important renewable natural resource on our coast.
Pacific salmon runs have crashed, unceremoniously replaced by farming Atlantic salmon. Climate change is challenging even the most dedicated spawner. Despite this, I will continue to speak for the salmon.
Salmon policy is spread across several Ministry’s. The provincial government defers to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans relinquishing all authority on even areas that we clearly have jurisdiction.
So, I have made it my mission to speak for the salmon in the B.C. Legislature; raising their plight day after day in question period; canvassing each ministry that claims to have salmon jurisdiction in estimates. Nearly every answer has been some version of “I care about wild salmon too, but, unfortunately, that’s not my job.”
Amidst the ministerial finger pointing and confusion about who is doing what, I have found a possible path forward – B.C. needs to establish a Wild Salmon Secretariat or Commissioner to streamline all the work being done within the B.C. government and – importantly – be a strong defender of wild salmon in negotiations with the federal government.
What’s your story?
We know that Pacific salmon are important to our coast. 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 born, the power of the wild Pacific salmon is quietly diminishing.
That is why we need your story. Whether it is in picture or in words, share #MySalmonStory on social media and don’t forget to tag me @AdamPOlsen (Twitter) and @adamphillipolsen (Instagram). Please also send it to me at [email protected] and leave your story in the comment section below.