Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns is urging the federal government to declare a wild salmon emergency in British Columbia.
Johns rose in the House of Commons via Zoom during March 25’s question period to lobby for more funding for wild salmon.
“Coastal First Nations and British Columbians need a government that will make historic investments in the conservation, protection and restoration of wild salmon habitats,” he said. “Will the minister declare a wild salmon emergency today and make the necessary investments in their budget to protect Pacific wild salmon?”
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan thanked Johns for his “hard work and advocacy” for fisheries.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a species that’s in critical shape. We know that there are a lot of factors that are impacting our wild Pacific salmon, including climate change as well as the human impacts from contaminants and the changes in land and water use. That is why our government has invested $145 million in habitat restoration,” Jordan said. “We’re going to continue to work with First Nations communities, provinces and territories to find the best solutions possible because we know how iconic this species is to British Columbia.”
Johns told Black Press Media that the $145 million investment over five years is not enough to solve the crisis.
“That’s over five years. They need to invest that every year for the next five years. They need a five-fold increase to help bring back wild salmon. They need a wild salmon recovery strategy, a plan to bring wild salmon back,” he said.
Salmon returns have been down across the board in B.C. with dismal returns being reported in the Fraser River as well as historically abundant systems in Clayoquot Sound.
“It’s absolutely irresponsible for the federal government to sit idle on their hands and watch this collapse happen right before their eyes without taking the necessary action steps to prevent this from happening,” Johns said.
Johns said a variety of organizations are ready and willing to help tackle the crisis through restoration projects, but those organizations need support and he added that more funding could help the province’s economic recovery from COVID-19 by creating employment opportunities in local communities.
He also suggested First Nations in his riding are vehemently urging him to fight for wild salmon recovery.
“It’s the first thing they want to talk about, the important need and the sense of urgency around protecting, preserving and bringing back wild salmon to abundance,” he said.