Rachel Blaney’s office is winding up a survey with local businesses to gather feedback about regional impacts of chinook (spring) salmon restrictions. The federal government imposed the restrictions last month in an effort to conserve returns to the Fraser River. In local waters, fishers are restricted to catch-and-release until July 15. One chinook will be permitted until Aug. 30, after which two can be caught.
“That has had a significant impact on our riding,” Blaney, the North Island-Powell River MP, said Monday in a media teleconference. “So far we’ve heard clearly from multiple sectors that the concerns are around habitat restoration. That is key, and has been under-funded for over 15 years.”
Constituents say there are not enough DFO staff on the ground, locally, to relay information to Ottawa. The riding also needs more support for small, local hatcheries to help build up salmon numbers.
Also of note was the clarity and timing (lateness) of the announcement, Blaney added.
She expects a report will be presented to Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in the next week or two.
“We are open to people contacting our office if they want to add anything to it,” Blaney said. “What I want to see is a strong, bold plan that this government is going to put forward to support the people however they’re impacted in this area, and make sure that we actually see the funding flowing to doing things like building up our hatcheries, making sure that we have restoration happening in our creeks and in our streams and in our rivers so that we don’t have to face this in the long-term ever again.”
Town hall meetings
Blaney’s office is conducting a series of town-hall meetings with students on the topic of climate change. The first session was April 16 in Port McNeill. She has another planned for Comox on May 22.
“It’s been very interesting,” she said. “Our goal is to have young people presenting at every one of them…It was interesting to hear concerns about forest fires, and not knowing what the future will look like with all of the changes. We’re just not getting the rain that we need. We’re working on having a good debate and discussion within the riding to be able to bring more information back to Ottawa.”
Cell phone coverage
North Islanders are also concerned about adequate cell phone coverage and access. Blaney notes a November accident near Sayward where Duncan Moffat was injured and trapped in a truck for several days before he was spotted by a hunter. The area had no cell phone service.
Her office has received hundreds of signatures on petitions asking for cell towers to increase accessibility. Blaney has tabled a couple of the petitions in Ottawa.
“Safety is the most important factor for the folks in our riding,” she said.