Opinion

Iconic salmon should be named B.C. symbol

A surveyof British Columbians revealed that the Pacific salmon is our province’s most iconic fish according to 95 per cent of the respondents.  - Sean Connor/Capital News
A surveyof British Columbians revealed that the Pacific salmon is our province’s most iconic fish according to 95 per cent of the respondents.
— image credit: Sean Connor/Capital News

I can still remember the first fish I caught from salt water, and the frightening bug eyes with which it glared at me when I hauled it near the boat.

It didn’t look anything like the trout and kokanee I was accustomed to catching in fresh water.

My first instinct was to release it to head back down to the deeps, but when I realized that underneath the fierce exterior it was actually a familiar favourite from my dinner table, and delicious eating, I kept it.

My recollection of that catch was more horrifying and eye-opening than it was exciting, but the first salmon I caught was an interval in time I’ll never forget.

It was quite a fight to land him, compared to the much smaller fish I was used to, and he was a beautiful sight when I finally got him near the boat, with his streamlined silver body and majestic look—quite unlike the ugly clown I had previously brought in.

So, it didn’t surprise me to read this week that the Pacific salmon is B.C.’s most iconic fish in the eyes of 95 per cent of people surveyed in this province. There’s also something almost mythical about the life cycle of the salmon—not just the wild, ocean-run species—but also our land-locked sockeye, the kokanee, which is native to the waters of our local lakes in the Okanagan.

It’s like magic that they somehow manage to find and often fight their way back upstream to the watery gravel bed of their own birth, to lay their eggs before dying and completing their cycle of life. Sometimes it’s a journey of thousands of miles, past almost insurmountable obstacles and past predators of all sorts along the way. It’s not unlike the epic journey of Frodo in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, to use a more-modern simile. And, that fight to achieve a goal in life, even if it means death, is a great life lesson for youngsters too.

In the process they learn about the importance of protecting habitat so such icons can continue to achieve their goals before dying.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation and Fraser Basin Council invite public comment on the proposal to designate wild Pacific salmon (I think the fresh water kokanee should be included) a provincial symbol like the dogwood, the Steller’s jay and the western red cedar.

To learn more, go to www.ThinkSalmon.com

At the same time, we should all be concerned about the machinations of the federal government when it comes to allocating permits to fish in our oceans, lest West Coast denizens of the deep go the way of the Atlantic cod, fished out of existence by the greedy.

The life in our oceans is a public resource that we must never permit to be raped by the private sector. And, we should not allow the federal government to steal our right to continue to enjoy our traditional sport of fishing, unless all fishing is curtailed for conservation concerns.

Certainly, we shouldn’t lose our rights to the benefit of commercial interests or those of another culture. If there’s enough to fish, there’s enough to share. If not, there’s not enough for anyone. It’s that simple.

Never, ever, should the fish resource be permitted to be exploited or wasted, such as by commercial bottom trawling, wiping the seafloor clean in order to harvest select bits from it all, and leaving tonnes of waste behind.

If you agree, it’s past time for you to stand up and be counted. Let your local MP (Ron Cannan/cannar@parl.gc.ca) or Stockwell Day (DayS@parl.gc.ca), or federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea (Shea.G@parl.gc.ca) know how you feel.

For more information, go to www.sfibc.com, the website of the Sport Fishing Coalition of B.C.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

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