2023 Year in Review2024-01-04T14:07:07-08:00

Safe Passage

The clock is ticking on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise to transition open net-pen salmon farms out of B.C. coastal waters by 2025. We are concerned the federal government is wavering in its resolve. With federal fish farm licenses expiring in June, the next year is pivotal.

Highlights from 2023

  • 15 farms removed
  • Over 11,900 emails and 519 “keep your promise” calls to the prime minister from Watershed Watch supporters
  • Our Indigenous allies removed the remaining seven farms through the Broughton Archipelago transition—an initiative we helped launch
  • Helped defend the Minister of Fisheries’ final decision in court to disallow fish farms in the Discovery Islands, represented by Ecojustice

Following our work with allies to expose huge wild herring kills at fish farms, Premier Eby said the social license on open net-pen fish farms has expired. Credit: Clayoquot Action

We raised the alarm about a fish farm operating illegally in Lois Lake, which is now facing formal charges.

Next year we will:

  • continue pressuring the feds to keep their promise to get all farms out of B.C.’s coastal waters
  • mobilize our supporters to call for farm removals when all federal salmon farm licences expire in June 2024

Fishing Smarter

We love fishing and fisherpeople. But how we fish matters.

Alaskan interceptions are now the biggest killer of many major B.C. salmon and steelhead runs. Alaskan fleets took a total of 18 million fish in just two fishing districts along the B.C. border this year, many of them B.C.-bound fish. That’s more than the combined harvest of B.C., Washington, Oregon, and California. Thanks to our efforts with allies, this is now a top-priority issue in Canada-US salmon treaty negotiations. There’s also more room for improvement in how our fisheries are managed here in B.C.

Highlights from 2023:

  • Put Alaskan interceptions at the top of the Fisheries Minister’s agenda in her discussions with the U.S. Ambassador
  • Successfully pushed back on the expansion of B.C. fisheries that would have increased mortality rates of endangered Fraser River Chinook salmon
  • Engaged with DFO’s Salmonid Enhancement Program to reform their approach to hatcheries
  • Pushed for legally mandated recovery targets and plans for depleted salmon populations, as required by the new Fisheries Act

Credit: Lichen, Troy Moth, Salmon Beyond Borders and territorial acknowledgement to the Tahltan Nation

Next year we will:

  • ramp up our campaign working with SkeenaWild to bring an end to Alaskan interceptions
  • continue watchdogging B.C. salmon fisheries and the implementation of DFO’s $647-million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative
  • push for a precautionary management plan and recovery measures for Skeena River steelhead

Water for Fish

Creeks ran dry. Ponds and marshes evaporated. Thousands of salmon died trapped in shallow pools of warming water. It was the worst year on record for wildfires. Working with the Watershed Security Coalition and CodeBlue BC, we pressured decision-makers for action.

Highlights from 2023:

  • Pushed the province for stronger action and better planning to defend salmon during drought; raised the alarm about a heat-related fish kill at Ford Creek; and supported the rescue of over 3,000 salmonids
  • Joined allies in exposing damage to fish habitat from construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline
  • Helped secure B.C.’s new $100-million Watershed Security Fund, through our work with the B.C. Watershed Security Coalition and our CodeBlue BC campaign

We exposed a fish kill and supported fish salvage at Chilliwack’s Ford Creek following habitat destruction.

Next year we will:

  • continue exposing threats to our watersheds and rallying the public to take action
  • push for the B.C. Watershed Security Fund to provide permanent funding of $75 million per year to safeguard the health of B.C. watersheds
  • demand better drought and flood planning and response from government, including getting tough on water wasters and ramping up community-led water sustainability planning

Connected Waters

Our campaign to reconnect 1,500 kilometres of salmon habitat currently blocked by outdated flood infrastructure in the lower Fraser River floodplain took on a new urgency in the aftermath of the 2021 flooding and the current drought. Around 85 per cent of historical salmon habitat in the Lower Fraser has been lost.

Highlights from 2023:

  • 102 fieldwork days recording fish presence and water quality in more than a dozen waterways we are working to restore in the Lower Fraser through the Resilient Waters project
  • Co-hosted two well-attended workshops on “Designing for Flood Resilience,” on fish-friendly infrastructure
  • Supported the City of Surrey and Resilient Waters in restoring salmon access to Bon Accord Creek after 70 years

Our work led to a new fish-friendly floodbox for Lower Agassiz Slough. This year, the Resilient Waters team found coho upstream of the floodbox for the first time in over 70 years.

Next year we will:

  • continue core work on the Lower Fraser Floodplains Coalition, including pressing for long-term funding for flood management projects
  • educate the public, decision-makers and project proponents about fish-friendly flood control with examples like Bon Accord Creek
  • support Indigenous-led projects like Pelolxw Nations’ Shxwlistexw te Sqwá:la Shxweli (Caring for the Life Spirit of the Hope Slough)

Defending the Heart of the Fraser

A century and a half of development and diking has imperiled one of the greatest floodplain ecosystems in the world—that stretch of river from Mission to Hope known as the “Heart of the Fraser.” We are working with a broad range of allies to defend this vital salmon and sturgeon habitat against new threats and secure permanent protections.

Highlights from 2023:

  • We connected a private landowner in Agassiz with BC Parks Foundation, resulting in the purchase of 35 hectares, 2.5 km of riverfront along the Fraser River for conservation
  • The Gill Bar (Xá:y Syí:ts’emílep) restoration project got underway with the ultimate goal of an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area, Watershed Watch providing ongoing support, outreach and engagement
  • We rallied supporters and helped postpone a massive gravel mining project planned for sensitive salmon habitat in the Vedder River during spawning season

A collaborative project is underway to restore Gill Bar.

Large pink salmon returns to the Vedder provided many with the opportunity to fish. Credit: Charlie Zhao

Next year we will:

  • support the Pelolxw Nations’ multi-year project to restore and protect Gill Bar
  • continue pushing back on gravel mining in salmon habitat
  • identify and take action on opportunities for in-river islands to be protected in the Heart of the Fraser

Mobilizing

Grassroots support is key to our mission. Our Watershed Watch Volunteer Meetup Group now has more than 350 members. This year, our volunteers supported invasive plant removal and fish and water quality data collection, tabled at public events, and more.

This year we:

  • 659 volunteer hours
  • over 30 events hosted or attended
  • more than 87,500 social media followers across our platforms and campaigns
  • our supporters contacted decision-makers over 34,000 times through our calls to action for wild salmon

Volunteer Eden collecting data for Resilient Waters.

Remember the Salmon War?

February 15th, 2024|

Alaskan fleets today catch more B.C. salmon and steelhead than B.C. fishers do, decimating those species and the ecosystems and livelihoods that depend on them. Sound familiar? It should.

Stand up for B.C.’s wild

Stand up for B.C.’s wild

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