Question Period, Feb. 26, 2018

Answer:

INTERIOR FRASER STEELHEAD POPULATION AND CHUM GILLNET FISHERY

A. Olsen: Last week I asked if government would retract the chum gillnet fisheries’ Marine Stewardship certification before the Thompson and Chilcotin Rivers steelhead go extinct. In response, the Minister of FLNRO said: “It’s DFO’s jurisdiction on the gillnet fishery, and we’re working on that.”

The minister isn’t wrong, but he didn’t answer the question. Steelhead’s fall return coincides with the chum salmon gillnet fishery, which, as the minister pointed out, is managed by DFO. As steelhead are managed by the province and swim upstream to spawn, they are getting caught and killed by the chum fisheries’ nets. It is happening at such a significant rate that the COSEWIC extinction listing says it’s one of the greatest threats facing steelhead survival, yet it’s a practice the province is going out of its way to certify and advertise as sustainable. The chum salmon gillnet fishery, in and of itself, may be sustainable, but the impact it is having on the endangered steelhead is not.

This time I direct my question to the Minister of Agriculture. Will you pull the chum gillnet fishery MSC sustainability listing, given the significant impact it’s having on steelhead?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Once again, I welcome the question regarding steelhead. The Interior Fraser steelhead run is of grave concern to members on this side of the House, as I believe it is to all members in this chamber who do not want to see the extirpation, the extinction, of a couple of runs of steelhead in the Fraser system and all it means about biodiversity.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC, pointed out that poor marine survival and excessive bycatch in non-target fisheries under the jurisdiction of DFO, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is the major cause for the loss that we’re seeing and the decline in this species.

We know that the federal government has routinely ignored the bycatch issue. We know that the former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who was supported by the former Premier, Christy Clark, and many members on that side who are members and support the federal Conservatives, did nothing to represent B.C.’s interest when it comes to steelhead in the Interior Fraser system.

We are working, helping the federal….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members.

Hon. D. Donaldson: We’re working with the federal government to formulate their fishing plans to mitigate the bycatch. When it comes to the Marine Stewardship Council, we are having input and working with the federal government on that.

We don’t have the ability to pull Marine Stewardship Council certification. They’re an independent, non-profit society.

Mr. Speaker: Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.

A. Olsen: I’m guessing that while the steelhead go to near extinction or get extirpated…. We are going to be calling the chum fishery certifiably marine sustainable, while another species goes near extinction.

Look. I did receive the letter, a response, from the Minister of FLNRO — we tracked it down; it was in a constituency in-box — in which he said: “Accountabilities for fisheries- and ocean-related issues and initiatives are distributed across the provincial government. Several agencies play a lead role in delivering key aspects of this work, including FLNRO, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Indigenous Relations, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.” The list is long. Perhaps this is why while one ministry says bycatch is a leading threat, another is saying it’s sustainable.

My question to the Minister of FLNRO is: how can six ministries, in addition to DFO, play a lead role in managing this crisis?

Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, yes, many ministries under provincial jurisdiction play a role. For instance, the Ministry of Agriculture has concerns about runoff from farms that impact the waters that these steelhead spawn in. The Ministry of Environment has jurisdiction over pollutants in those waters. My ministry has many tools at their disposal when it comes to the sport fishery.

What I want the member to know…. I clearly do not believe that the MSC certification should apply to the chum fishery in relation to this steelhead return. That’s the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ responsibility. We will make sure that our views are well known to the federal government, as well as taking measures on habitat conservation and restoration that are within the jurisdiction of the provincial government.

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