Open letter to Hunter Tootoo, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans:
The First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance is writing to request an urgent meeting between the DFO and the First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance (FNWSA) regarding the minimal returns of this year’s wild salmon runs in B.C., the proposed and existing risks to wild salmon habitat, and the implementation of the Cohen Commission recommendations.
By way of background, the FNWSA seeks to bring First Nations together to speak with a common voice for the protection and conservation and enhancement of wild salmon throughout British Columbia. The FNWSA will work to conserve wild salmon, and advocate and support recovery and restoration.
The FNWSA is extremely disappointed and frustrated by the state of B.C.’s wild salmon stocks and the inaction of federal and provincial authorities to enact the recommendations and Calls-to-Action of the Cohen Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River.
Wild salmon are integral to many First Nations’ cultures, well being and livelihood, and the protection of our wild salmon stocks is equally integral to the economic and environmental sustainability of the province and country as a whole.
This year, only an estimated two million sockeye have returned to the Fraser River, far short of the more than six million predicted in preseason forecasts. There is an even further dramatic collapse of the pink salmon fishery, with only an estimated five million fish returning when more than 14 million had been forecast.
These drastic shortfalls are even more alarming given that the BC Ministry of Environment recently provided Taseko with permission to increase its discharge of tailings into the Fraser River by more than 50 per cent at the Gibraltar Mine near Williams Lake, which could lead to even further shortfalls in coming years.
Further to the increase of industrial effluents into critical wild salmon habitat we are also baring witness to the BC Ministry of Agriculture’s approval of four new fish farm tenures, despite the Cohen Commission’s recommendation to develop new citing criteria and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continual promotion of the open-pen fish farm operations of B.C.’s coastline, including the proposed expansion of the Maude Island site, facility number 869, from 860 t to 2640 t. These operations have determined negative consequences on wild salmon.
It is clear to the FNWSA that immediate action must be taken to protect our wild salmon for the benefit of all British Columbians and Canadians. A moratorium on the expansion of all finfish aquaculture ventures along the B.C. coast needs to be implemented until further evidence is gathered on the negative impacts these installations have on our wild salmon. This year’s runs have made it abundantly clear that our wild salmon stocks are in grave danger, and require immediate action to preserve their habitat.
The First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance is calling on the federal government and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, to meet with the FNWSA to discuss the current state of wild salmon stocks, and to discuss the enactment of the Cohen Commission recommendations to safeguard our wild salmon.
Given the urgency of this issue, we look forward to your prompt response.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, chair
The First Nations Wild Salmon Alliance