Feds, B.C. announce 'unprecedented' funding to protect salmon
Hundreds of high school students gathered on the lawn of the BC legislature Friday and demand action on climate change, just hours after politicians made promises to protect wild salmon from the ravages of rising temperatures.
The federal and provincial governments announced nearly $143 million over five years to help wild salmon survive. Ottawa will chip in $100 million of that, with B.C. funding the rest. The money will fund the Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, whose goal is to get academics, First Nations, environmentalists, industry and others working together to find technology, new solutions and to share information to restore dwindling fish stocks.
“This is very unusual,” Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Brian Riddell said of the funding. “In my career I do not recall a commitment of this magnitude." A biography on the foundation’s website says Riddell worked as a researcher and scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for 30 years.
Federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson called salmon a keystone species, one that he says is of great cultural and economic importance to British Columbians.
While the action will help salmon, it could also be the lifeline needed by the critically endangered southern resident killer whales. They feed on chinook, but dwindling returns have left many orcas starving. Noise, pollution, and marine traffic are some of the other risks they face. Increased tanker traffic from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion -- if approved -- could be one more.
Federal fisheries minister, Jonathan Wilkinson said the biggest concern would be on land, while building the pipeline.
“Just ensuring that as the construction of the pipeline would proceed that it's done in a manner that wouldn't impact the fish habitat and rivers and streams where it crosses,” Wilkinson told reporters at a press conference in Victoria. “It's less about the once it reaches the Salish Sea.”
Premier John Horgan said Ottawa was clear on where B.C stood when it comes to the controversial energy project.
“The consequences of a diluted bitumen spill would be catastrophic for our marine environment that includes chinook and salmon and southern residents,” Horgan added.
While both politicians called the funding unprecedented, they admitted there was more work to do. Those sentiments echoed by student protestors in the capital, who urged leaders to take drastic action on many fronts to confront climate change.