Greens support B.C. First Nations call for emergency action to protect Pacific Salmon

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada joins British Columbia First Nations Leadership Council in calling on Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Bernadette Jordan for an emergency order to close all sockeye fisheries on the Fraser River in British Columbia. 

In a recent press release B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said: “Fisheries and Oceans recently put the estimated return of sockeye to the Fraser at 283,000. This is the lowest return in my lifetime, and probably the lowest in history.” In 2009, the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River reported that over a million fish were returning at that time. A 2018 Cohen Response status update concluded that while work had progressed on the 75 recommendations, much work still remained.

“This is an emergency situation,” said Green parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “The sockeye salmon are a major food source for Indigenous communities on the Fraser River. In 2019 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) projected the number of returning sockeye salmon in the Fraser would be almost five million, then the number was adjusted to approximately 600,000. To learn that the numbers have now fallen to 283,000 is shocking. Clearly not enough is being done to mitigate this disaster and that needs to change.”

“The 2018 Big Bar landslide, climate change and commercial fisheries are all taking a terrible toll on the sockeye salmon and other species. This is not a new problem. In 2004 a FOPO committee report suggested that a major ecological disaster was unfolding on the Fraser River. Now, 16 years later that situation has manifested. With the fall fast approaching, food security for the First Nations communities that rely on the sockeye is in jeopardy. Something must be done quickly to address this situation.”

Paul Manly (MP, Nanaimo-Ladysmith) added: “We would urge Minister Jordan to heed the call of the B.C First Nations and issue an emergency order to close fisheries immediately so that remote communities can access their traditional harvests. Open pen aquaculture needs to be stopped and fish ladders should be placed on the Big Bar slide. In order to maintain this critical salmon habitat, the surrounding watersheds must be restored and protected as well.”

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