After a record-breaking heatwave, and with continuing drought and wildfires across the province, B.C.’s wild salmon are in extreme danger. And there’s a lot more that our governments could do to defend our salmon from these impacts of global warming.
In B.C., 32 populations of Chinook, sockeye and steelhead are now listed as “endangered” or “threatened” by the federal Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, with many more who deserve to be added to the list.
Many of these endangered salmon swim home to water-stressed parts of the province, including the Thompson River and its tributaries, and the east coast of Vancouver Island where over-extraction and scarcity of water during droughts is a serious problem.
Many people think of super-natural B.C. as having limitless fresh water. Unfortunately, that is simply not true. Across the province, over 60% of British Columbians live in water-stressed areas. With a growing population and a warming climate, the stress on our rivers and salmon is only going to get worse.
For salmon populations already impacted by multiple threats including pollution, loss of habitats, diseases from salmon farms, inbreeding of hatchery fish, and poorly managed fisheries, low flows and rising water temperatures may be too much to bear.
So what can be done?
Besides addressing our greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, the most important thing we can do to give wild salmon a chance to survive extreme drought conditions is to get more water flowing in our rivers and streams.
We have a law which gives the Province the power and mandate to regulate water use for nature as well as people, the 2016 Water Sustainability Act. Now we need the Province to get serious about implementing it. In the five years since this much-improved version of B.C.’s water law was passed, only a small fraction of its provisions have been put into effect. For example, the B.C. government is about to miss their own deadline for licensing and regulating groundwater use, which has major impacts on nearby salmon streams.
That’s why Watershed Watch, in partnership with other allies, launched CodeBlue BC, a plan to secure and sustain B.C.’s fresh water sources for generations to come.
The CodeBlue BC plan has three parts:
- Get tough on water wasters and polluters. Good resource development should never degrade our watersheds, or waste our fresh water. Tougher rules, better enforcement, and stronger penalties will make resource companies clean up their act.
- Make big industrial users pay. Our water is priceless, and most British Columbians agree it should never be sold. However, B.C.’s system of water licences lets big industry pay pennies to use our water, while British Columbians are stuck cleaning up the messes they leave behind. This needs to change: it’s time to make industrial users pay the true cost of using B.C.’s water.
- Give local people control over local water sources. B.C.’s water sources should be owned and managed by the people who know them best and need them most. By providing local people with the funding, training and authority to look after their water sources, we can create surge of good jobs in every corner of B.C.
It’s time we start treating our watersheds like our lives depend on them.
Read the plan. Add your voice to CodeBlue BC and help us pressure Premier Horgan to protect B.C.’s fresh water, wild salmon and the watersheds we all depend on.