Ahousaht’s Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society is cheering the supporters of a voluntary stewardship fee that’s funding vital salmon restoration efforts in the region.
“We’re going to award plaques to acknowledge these people as stewardship ambassadors of the territory,” MHSS stewardship guardian Byron Charlie told the Westerly News.
The voluntary $15 fee is paid by guests visiting Ahousaht’s serene territory, like kayakers and wildlife waters, with local guiding businesses like Paddle West Kayaking adding the fee to their client’s bills, making sure to explain the benefits and why it’s needed to keep their adventures draped in wild beauty.
“We’re putting it back into Clayoquot Sound and salmon enhancement because salmon enhancement is huge here,” Charlie said. “Clayoquot salmon stocks have been in decline for many years and, right now, we’re kind of on the brink of Pacific salmon on the coast here being on the endangered species list. Enhancing all these river systems here and watersheds is vital to Clayoquot Sound. It’s the fabric of this community.”
He said salmon stocks have seen a devastating decline from historic numbers, noting Atleo River was once home to as many as 35,000 chum.
“This year we counted 15. That’s a really drastic change in our watersheds…Overfishing, habitat destruction, poor forestry management, it’s all really made significant declines in the populations here. We want it to get back to the numbers we were around before,” he said.
“First Nations have been stewards of this land for millennia and now, with what’s happening in the world, it’s our generation’s turn to continue what our ancestors have always done and take care of this land and our resources, have it how it used to be and have it beautiful for our kids to enjoy next.”
He said plaques will be given to recognize the stewardship commitments of Ryan Rogers, Paddle West Kayaking, Jessica Hutchinson, Tofino Water Taxi, Phil Mayes, Devon Mills, Tim Snyder, Central Westcoast Forest Society, Majestic Ocean Kayaking and Thompson Rivers University.
“Their donations and their support mean a lot,” he said. “We’re going to acknowledge them at the hatchery, show them what we’re doing with the stewardship fee and show them that what we’re doing is really going to be making an impact on the goal we’re working towards.”
He hopes that with summer coming up and a gaggle of adventure-hungry explorers descending onto the Coast, those visitors and the businesses helping them explore, will recognize the importance of buying into the stewardship fee program.
“We want to show these people and other companies out here and across the world essentially how we want to move forward with the stewardship and sustainable management of our territorial resources,” he said. “We want to balance cultural values, ecological integrity, wellbeing of all the people here and everything that we have with the conservation of our area and the restoration that we’re doing. The only thing more integral than the forest in B.C. is salmon.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the stewardship fee program and how to get involved is encouraged to reach out to the Maaqutusiis Hahoulthee Stewardship Society through its social media channels or email Charlie at email@example.com.