Photo: Salmon face an upstream battle in election

By Jeffery Young, science and policy analyst

It's not surprising that the federal election issues grabbing attention are focused on people. But we shouldn't ignore the wildlife, like salmon, so central to creating healthy communities across the country. Voters in B.C. want action for salmon.

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Ten years ago the federal government released its policy to conserve wild Pacific salmon in Canada. It's known as the Wild Salmon Policy , the blueprint to ensure that Pacific salmon have a prosperous future. The policy provides a framework for government, First Nations, fishers and conservation organizations to work together to protect and reap the benefits from wild salmon. It's a science-based strategy to conserve the full diversity of Pacific salmon, which also gives them the best chance to adapt to climate change. Conservation is balanced with ways to provide the greatest benefits to commercial and recreational fisheries.

Unfortunately for salmon, the most important pieces of the policy remain on paper only. In addition to cuts to science, fisheries monitoring and enforcement within Fisheries and Oceans Canada, weakening of habitat protection under the federal Fisheries Act further diminishes the chances for healthy salmon stocks.

The $37 million Cohen Commission, which investigated the record low returns of Fraser River sockeye salmon in 2009, held the Wild Salmon Policy up in many of its core recommendations, from monitoring and enforcement to removing open net-pen salmon farms from juvenile salmon migration routes. Yet few of those recommendations have been acted on.

Despite a lack of political leadership, there's cooperation on the ground among commercial and recreational fishers, First Nations and conservation groups, which are holding regional roundtables and supporting actions, like leading fish counts, using their own resources. Remaining federal fisheries staff have faced challenges in assisting these efforts, with their resources stretched thin.

Canada's next federal government has a clear path forward if it wants to protect Pacific salmon: follow the Wild Salmon Policy to ensure B.C.'s wild salmon will be here, and healthy, for generations to come.

October 16, 2015

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