The one thing all of these have in common is a lack of government leadership at either the federal or provincial level. It’s time the provincial government did something about it. The BC Greens are calling for a centralized representative for wild salmon and recommend government appoint a Wild Salmon Commissioner and supporting secretariat.
A Wild Salmon Commissioner and Secretariat would:
- Serve as a unifying force in the provincial government to see the big picture and ensure that all the fisheries work being done within the BC government is aligned towards a consistent, positive outcome.
- Be a strong defender of wild salmon in negotiations with the federal government
- Be a champion for wild salmon who can work to address threats and begin to rebuild declining stocks.
This representative and its supporting secretariat would coordinate the work being done within the provincial government and to be a strong advocate for salmon federally. While the decision making authority must remain with the Minister(s) and the policy work within the ministries, a salmon commissioner would ensure the overarching objectives for wild salmon are properly weighted in decision making.
|Adequate funding and strong connection to government - At a fundamental level, the commissioner and secretariat must have enough funding and connection to government to have a meaningful impact. The BC Green Caucus believes the most effective approach would be to have a Wild Salmon Commissioner and Secretariat appointed within the Premier’s office. Consideration was given to having an external salmon commissioner, operating at arm’s length from government, but we think direct connection to the Premier would be advantageous given their role in ensuring government’s wild salmon objectives are accomplished in a coordinated manner across ministries.|
|Strong First Nations connection - Any structure must reflect the inherent importance salmon have within Indigenous communities and allow the commissioner and secretariat to be guided by traditional knowledge. This would ensure a balanced approach in restoring BC’s relationship with wild salmon. One alternative idea was to appoint two joint commissioners, one of whom should be First Nations. Whether or not this option is chosen it is critical that First Nations and their corresponding rights and title are entrenched in the decision making process on this file.|
|Urgency - The commissioner should be appointed by Summer 2018. The crisis we are facing requires urgent action. Returns of Fraser River sockeye are critically low, populations of chinook, coho, and steelhead are struggling. Some runs are on the brink of extinction. The sooner we act, the better our opportunity for recovery will be.|
Community buy-in and engagement
Their first order of business, to be completed over the first few months, could be to strike an external advisory/oversight board with members from all regions of the province and all major stakeholders. This strategy would allow for immediate political leadership, coordination of existing salmon initiatives within government, and the creation of a more robust, long-term plan to ensure the work continues beyond election cycles.
Restoring wild salmon populations
The mandate should focus on increasing wild salmon populations by addressing the cumulative impacts that are affecting fish in our oceans, rivers and streams while restoring salmon habitat. This mandate would, in turn, begin to fix the disjointed approach to wild salmon management we currently have in within our provincial government. If done effectively, it would also begin to rebuild a thriving commercial wild salmon fishery in communities throughout our province.