Fisheries and the age of climate change
There is a survey on the SCCA's website of salmon returns in the 12 largest salmon bearing watersheds of the greater Sunshine Coast region over a 50-year period. This data shows that the decline of the fisheries began in the late 50s and continues to this day. Salmon populations in these watersheds declined by at least 90% during this period. As well, many formerly significant runs disappeared entirely.
This has a great deal to do with logging practices. More recently, rising water temperatures and ocean acidification levels have been cited as factors in increasing mortality among migrating salmon as well as negative impacts on other fin and shell fish industries.
Are you aware that the complete disappearance of salmon from Canada’s west coast is increasingly probable? Please describe your approach to restoring our salmon populations.
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New Democratic Party
As mentioned [in question 3], Judith took a leadership role in fighting against fish farms on the Sechelt Inlet, being aware of the damage that open net fish farming does to wild salmon habitat.
In order to protect wild salmon on the Pacific coast, we will fully implement the recommendations of the Cohen Commission and work with the province of British Columbia and First Nations to support the transition to land-based closed-containment systems. On the Atlantic coast, we’ll ensure that resource allocations in the fishery are guided by the principles of adjacency, historic dependence and sustainability.
Salmon are an iconic species to British Columbians, and have special significance to our First Nations. We need to do everything we can to support their survival.
Over the last four years the Liberal government has implemented initiatives aimed at protecting wild Pacific salmon through the new Fisheries Act, the 1.5 billion dollar Oceans Protection Plan, through the Fisheries and Aquaculture Clean Technology Adoption Program, and with the $142 million BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund.
This has included funding for salmon habitat restoration, which we need to continue to do more of. For example, Pam Goldsmith-Jones was instrumental in getting federal funding to restore salmon habitat in Squamish with the Squamish River Watershed Society.
These measures complement our broader climate plan – which itself is critical given the significant impact climate change is having on wild salmon stocks.
It's also important that we move away from open net fish farms to closed containment by 2025. We will do this in a thoughtful way for businesses and the people that are employed by them. We have already brought in area-based regulations to move these fish farms away from migratory salmon routes.
I am committed to ensuring we fully implement our climate plan so that we can do our part to mitigate climate change and the resulting impacts to salmon and other species.
Everyone wants a future with wild salmon here in BC, and that’s a future I’ll fight for.
The first thing a Green Government would do to protect British Columbia’s iconic wild salmon is to cancel the Liberal Governments’ Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion. The expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline requires construction of approximately 994 kilometres of new pipeline across more than 500 watercourses, roughly half of which support habitat for recreational, economic, and culturally important fish species. The increased pipeline capacity (from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day) would necessitate a dramatic increase in the number of tankers transiting the waters of the Salish Sea. Even with Trans Mountain’s simplification of the highly complex Fraser River, their spill modelling results still estimate a high probability (up to 90%) of oil stranding along shorelines in the spring, winter, and fall. This is simply a risk that British Columbia cannot afford to take.
Overfishing, pollution, acidification, climate change, habitat damage and fishing gear are taking a terrible toll on marine life and ecosystems. In short, we have to clean up and back off and give marine ecosystems a chance to heal themselves.
Ecological Wisdom, a Green Party core value, means understanding that humans and every other species of animal and plant are integral and interdependent parts of a living planet. Our duty, then, is to live on Earth with the lightest touch possible. A Green Government would:
- Strengthen regulation to ensure forestry activities do not compromise fisheries in watersheds. Restore systems which have been degraded by poorly regulated land use.
- Remove open net-pen fish farms from critical salmon habitats today not down the road.
- Increase funding to federal departments to dramatically ramp up the development and implementation of endangered species recovery plans required by legislation, placing tight deadlines on completion and invoking emergency powers of the federal government to protect species when provincial governments fail to do so.
- Protect a minimum of 30 percent of freshwaters, oceans and land by 2030.
- Commit $100 million annually over the next four years to create Indigenous-led protected and conserved areas and fund stewardship of these lands and waters by Indigenous guardians.
- Fully restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which was gutted by the Harper government in 2012, and adopt the recommendations of the independent Expert Panel on Environmental Assessment, commissioned by the Liberals and then ignored.
Personally I have signed the Wild First Canada Pledge to Protect Wild Salmon.
I am aware that the salmon fisheries are under duress. The Conservative Party believes that we must protect these iconic species and ensure that our wild stocks remain healthy. We support the goal of the Fisheries Act to protect and enhance Canada’s fish stocks. We need to work with various sectors to ensure that actions taken involve a minimal risk to wild salmon habitats. The current government has not fully implemented the recommendations of the Cohen Commission in terms of concrete action to restore Pacific wild salmon stocks. We recognize the ecological, cultural, and economic value of pacific salmon. In addition, we support efforts to transition BC’s salmon farming industry to more sustainable practices and technology that will reduce potential risks to our wild stocks. There are many developments in BC and around the world that show great promise in reducing risks to wild stocks that we must support and employ. Canada can be a global leader in this field.
Fish farms need to be removed from the ocean. It is virtually impossible to prevent some escapes and thus contamination of wild salmon. Companies want to use technicalities and tricky wording to have their farmed fish sound more appetizing to their customers, and this must not be allowed to put wild salmon stocks in jeopardy.
Sustainable fishing is clearly important, and steeper fines must be put in place for illegal fishing. Priority must be given to our local fishing operations rather than fishing tourism which is prone to abuse.
Finally, we must seriously consider a sea lion cull. Nobody wants animals to die or suffer unnecessarily, but we need to step back and take a serious look at the implications of dwindling salmon stock on the entire ecosystem. While rare and often controversial, culls are an important part of wildlife management.
Canada Fresh Party
Re-furbish our watersheds. Have new Hatcheries supporting every water shed. Pump water from death to re-fresh (similar as oxygenating a lake). Build new shellfish habitat.
Doug (Robert) Bebb
Unlike bogus claims of a climate crisis, the decline of fish stocks is a legitimate problem. But as the question correctly points out, this problem has existed for decades and so is unrelated to questionable claims of rising water temperatures and changing pH levels of our oceans. As an aside, it needs to be understood that the solubility of CO2 in water is inversely proportional to temperature. So, if ocean temperature does rise, the oceans will lose CO2 and likely become less acidic. Climate alarmists fail to understand actual science and have this particular relationship completely backwards. In any event, actual scientists have been studying the CO2 cycle in the oceans for decades without conclusively figuring it out.
Several solutions to the fish decline problem have been examined, but a clear path forward remains elusive.
i) The value of hatchery enhancement has been called into question due to a trade-off between fish population numbers and the genetic quality of wild stocks. We need an answer to this dilemma and should devote more resources to finding one.
ii) Tagging all hatchery fish stocks to enable selective harvest has so far met with limited success in Washington State. But the US experience should be continuously monitored, so that this option can be kept open for BC.
iii) Selective harvesting by controlling permitted opening times, locations, and the fishing gear used also seems to be an attractive option.
iv) Fully enclosed fish farms should be encouraged in place of the open-net operations currently operating. Various versions of this exist in Norway and the USA. Some of these are land-based and some are not.
v) Over-fishing needs to stop. A shift to aquaculture is needed.