Some advocates aren't happy with BC Wild Salmon consultation process

By Adam Donnelly
January 8, 2019 - 5:12pm

KAMLOOPS — The BC Government is working on a strategy for protecting and enhancing wild salmon populations in BC. As part of that strategy, the Wild Salmon Advisory Council has been travelling up and down the BC coast, engaging with communities on the initial recommendations made this fall.

Tonight (Jan. 8) the council is in Kamloops for their only stop in the BC Interior, to host a meeting with the public to get more feedback on the process, but for some wild salmon advocates, that process might not be inclusive enough.

Standing on the shore of Kamloops Lake, Tobiano resident Gregory Gordon reflects on the many species of salmon that use the lake and the rivers that connect it to the Pacific Ocean as a spawning ground to lay eggs and sustain their young; in recent decades, the number of salmon returning to these waters and beyond to spawn have been fewer and fewer.

The health of salmon stocks is one of the reasons why the BC Government is working to create a wild salmon strategy. The Wild Salmon Advisory Council is in Kamloops engaging with members of the public on the topic at a meeting at the Sandman Centre.

“I read about [the meeting] on the internet, like most people. There hasn’t been a lot of publicity around this process,” Gordon says. “I know that Kamloops has been added… fairly recently, and it’s the only Interior town to be included.”

Gordon is a self-described salmon and steelhead advocate, and has been keeping an eye on much of the material submitted to the council as they conduct their meetings throughout the province. He says while the consultation process is important, he’s worried that the process might not be as transparent as it could be.

“There is a perception that this process is biased towards coastal communities, commercial fishing interests,” Gordon says. “I know the options paper was developed and released prior to public consultation… being completed. I know a lot of people did a lot of work on [the public consultation], but it’s basically fruitless.”

The 13-member board has seven members from Vancouver Island, one from Sointula on Malcolm Island, three members from coastal communities on the mainland, and one from Chilliwack. The only member from the Interior is Thomas Alexis, who’s located in Fort St. James. CFJC Today reached out to the Wild Salmon Secretariat for an interview, but no one from the council was available to speak on camera.

Gordon says along with the lack of representation for the Interior, he was disappointed the options paper the council produced made no mention of steelhead, another species at risk in the province.

“It was disappointing to see the options paper didn’t address the steelhead problem, at all,” Gordon says. “Interior-Fraser Steelhead, Thompson-Chilcotin Steelhead was a driver behind this process, so it’s mystifying why they didn’t include it.”

The BC Wild Salmon Strategy community meeting kicks off at 6:00 pm at the Valley First Lounge at Sandman Centre. If you’re unable to make the meeting, the council is taking online feedback until January 11th.

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