Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society

As I write this, my wife is homeschooling our daughter. Like millions of parents around the world, we are doing our best to navigate the age of COVID-19. My family and I are some of the lucky ones. Even though my wife’s business is shut down due to the virus, bringing our household income down, it also means she is able to look after our daughter while schools are closed. And we are still able to pay our bills. Every day is a balancing act between working and being present to my family and community. But we have it good compared to all those single parents, front line workers, and many others who are stretched so much further right now.

Although the economy is slowing down as everyone stays home, B.C.’s wild salmon still face the same challenges as they did two months ago: fish farm viruses and parasites are still infecting young wild salmon as they migrate out to sea, fishing plans are being developed for the coming season, and vast areas of salmon habitat are still under threat or in need of restoration.

Watching our grocery stores get emptied out, our supply chains struggle, and our urban spaces become devoid of people, the importance of our wild salmon and watersheds has come into sharp focus. We need healthy watersheds that supply clean drinking water and support abundant fish and wildlife populations. We need good jobs that don’t destroy our natural wealth and the security it provides. We need wild spaces where we can go to remember who we are.

Our provincial and federal governments are planning post-COVID stimulus measures. They are deciding how to spend public money in order to create desperately-needed jobs. Their decisions can either help or harm our wild fish and rivers. That is why we are pushing now for a post-COVID future that prioritizes wild salmon restoration and green infrastructure, and doesn’t sacrifice the natural assets that provide a true safety net when all else fails.

One place to start is upgrading flood control infrastructure around the lower Fraser valley that unnecessarily blocks over 1500 km of formerly productive salmon habitat, and restoring these habitats once they are opened back up to fish. These upgrades can be made in a way that better protects communities from flooding, and creates good local jobs in engineering and construction, while turning neglected local waterways into vibrant centres of natural beauty and salmon productivity.

We will keep you updated on this and other initiatives in the coming weeks and months. And don’t worry if you can’t pay as much attention as usual to wild salmon conservation. Keeping yourself, your family, and your community safe is job number one. Keeping watch for the health of the fish is our job and we’re still on it.

NB. If you have some time on your hands and want to get involved, please shoot us a note or visit our campaign pages to learn more and take action for wild salmon:

Connected Waters – opening up and restoring wild salmon habitat in the lower Fraser

Safe Passage and Safe Salmon – getting fish farms off the B.C. coast

Code Blue – securing and sustaining B.C.’s freshwater sources forever

Defend the Heart of the Fraser – protecting the vital stretch of critical wild salmon and sturgeon habitat known as the Heart of the Fraser