LETTER: Fraser river salmon passage must be restored

A letter to the editor of the 100 Mile Free Press

To the editor,

Time is running out.

The Big Bar Slide on British Columbia’s Fraser River, first reported in June, is nothing short of a national crisis that threatens a shared natural resource that cannot be replaced: our wild Pacific salmon. The rock slide and the restriction it has caused for migrating salmon represents an acute threat to multiple stocks of Pacific salmon, many of which are already reduced to critical states after years of decline. Today, Canada is faced with a natural crisis that requires a timely and meaningful response from the federal government to avert a national catastrophe- the extinction of several Pacific salmon populations.

Indigenous communities depend on Pacific salmon to meet their food, social and ceremonial needs, while commercial harvesters and recreational anglers also depend on wild salmon to feed their families and uphold cultural traditions handed down through generations.

These salmon are also central to ecosystems, forests and food webs spanning the B.C. coast and rivers that connect ocean to spawning grounds. If Pacific salmon disappear, it is hard to say how orcas, bears and coastal eagles, to name a few species, will adapt or survive. Extinction of any Pacific salmon stock is a domino that we can avert upsetting, so why aren’t we?

Soon after the federal government was informed of the slide, former fisheries minister and B.C. MP Jonathan Wilkinson stated the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was “throwing all [their] resources on this.”

On July 5, Wilkinson stated that Big Bar was a “key priority” before upgrading it to “top priority” as he waited for the Fraser’s water level to subside. Nearly two weeks later, there was still no plan in place, but Wilkinson reassured us that the government had dedicated all the resources and personnel required to “make the progress that we need to make.”

Six months and one fisheries minister later, and Canadians are still waiting to learn what the plan is for Big Bar. Time is of the essence as runoff will start to swell the Fraser again in mid-March. The extinction of Pacific salmon stocks is no longer a mere projection or hypothesis; it is the outcome that we can all expect with great certainty if the crisis at Big Bar is not remedied in the coming weeks.

I urge the federal government to take all the steps and provide all the resources required to restore essential migration passage for our Pacific salmon at Big Bar. The time for action is now.

Mel Arnold, M.P.

Official Opposition Shadow Minister for Fisheries and Oceans

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