New threat looms for B.C.’s wild salmon

Federal government moving to dismantle its own wild salmon protection policy

March 16, 2017 (Vancouver, BC) — Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is moving ahead with a controversial plan to rewrite Canada’s Policy for the Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon, better known as the Wild Salmon Policy and adopted in 2005 by the previous Liberal government. The Wild Salmon Policy provides a comprehensive framework for the full protection of wild salmon and their habitat, including recovery of stocks at risk.

“We thought this government was going to turn things around for BC’s wild salmon,” said Aaron Hill, Executive Director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “Instead they’ve approved harmful industrial projects, slashed budgets for monitoring salmon runs, and now they want to gut the Wild Salmon Policy.”

In his mandate letter to the Fisheries Minister, Prime Minister Trudeau committed to “restore lost protections” to the Fisheries Act, and Dominic LeBlanc publicly reaffirmed this commitment after replacing Hunter Tootoo as Fisheries Minister. Despite this mandate letter commitment, DFO cites a desire to align the policy with changes to the Fisheries Act that Harper introduced in the omnibus bill of 2012; changes that reduced protections for fish habitat. Further, in a report released three weeks ago following extensive consultations, the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended the changes to the Fisheries Act be reversed.

The mandate letter also called for DFO to act on the recommendations of the $37 million taxpayer-funded Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, released in 2012. Justice Cohen’s report highlighted the importance of the Wild Salmon Policy in its current form and called for an implementation plan with dedicated funding, timelines, and accountability.

“Justice Cohen recognized the excellence of the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, and he recommended an implementation plan for putting the policy into action,” said Misty MacDuffee, Wild Salmon Program Director at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation. “Nowhere did he say that the policy should be rewritten.”

DFO’s plan also appears to be offside with a group of leading salmon scientists who recently held a think tank at Simon Fraser University. The first recommendation in their report, released earlier this week, states: “Further reviewing, reexamining, or reopening of the [Wild Salmon] policy would be a poor use of limited funds in the Pacific Region. The Wild Salmon Policy is more timely and important than ever and it should be fully implemented immediately.” The same report also recommended restoring salmon monitoring, which is currently at an all time low.

“We are asking Minister LeBlanc to simply do what Justice Cohen recommended and implement this policy for protecting and rebuilding BC’s wild salmon,” said Jeffery Young, Senior Science and Policy Analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation. “We are ready to help DFO with implementation and would rather spend our time here than having to defend the policy itself.”

“Aligning the Wild Salmon Policy with Harper’s Fisheries Act would have serious implications for First Nations across BC whose culture and prosperity are tied to the health of the salmon,” said Chief Bob Chamberlin of the Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance. “DFO’s actions are clearly inconsistent with the spirit of reconciliation, and also with their commitments to act on the recommendations of the Cohen Inquiry.”

Dave Brown, of the Squamish to Lillooet Sportfish Advisory Committee and the Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, warned: “If the Federal Government thinks they can fool us into believing that aligning the Wild Salmon Policy with a gutted Fisheries Act is a good thing, they are fooling themselves. British Columbians won’t let DFO pull the wool over our eyes!”

Other groups expressing concern over DFO’s plan include SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Pacific Streamkeepers Federation, and the Steelhead Society of BC.

DFO is holding a public meeting tonight regarding the potential revision of the Wild Salmon Policy, 6:30–8:30 pm, HSBC Hall, UBC Robson Square, 800 Robson St., Vancouver. RVSP to A short WebEx portion will be available to join at 7:00 pm.


Backgrounder and supporting documents:


Aaron Hill, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 250-818-0054
Misty MacDuffee, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, 250-818-2136
Jeffery Young, David Suzuki Foundation, 250-208-8714
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Kwikwasutinuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and
First Nation Wild Salmon Alliance, 250-974-8282
Dave Brown, Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable, Squamish-Lillooet Sportfish Advisory
Committee, 604-905-8438
Greg Taylor, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 604-970-0277
Stan Proboszcz, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 604-314-2713
Greg Knox, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, 250-615-1990
Poul Bech, Steelhead Society of BC, 604-881-6801