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B.C. wild salmon get $142M cash infusion for habitat restoration

Category: Political News,Politics

The federal and B.C. governments have announced a massive cash infusion meant to help restore wild salmon habitat.

Over a five-year period, the federal government has pledged $100 million, while the B.C. government is promising $42.85 million over the same span.

The money will go to the new British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, which is open to proposals from Indigenous groups, conservation groups, academic and research organizations and commercial groups in the fishing industries.

READ MORE: Government-appointed council calls for immediate actions to increase B.C.’s wild salmon population

To be eligible, projects will need to focus on innovation, infrastructure improvements or science partnerships.

More details about eligibility can be found on the Fund’s website.

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“British Columbians are rightly concerned about the state of several wild salmon stocks and I share that concern,” said Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

“They are intrinsically linked to our identity, they are fundamental to Indigenous communities, and they are a significant indicator of overall environmental health. They are also, as you know, a major food source for our iconic [southern resident] killer whales.”

READ MORE: Province launches wild salmon council, advocacy groups don’t think it’s enough

The creation of the fund comes several months after Washington state governor Jay Inslee announced his own $1.1-billion plan to protect orcas and restore salmon habitat.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said both he and Wilkinson had met with Inslee, and that protecting salmon would need to be a multi-jurisdictional effort.

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“The federal government, provincial government and the state government in Washington working together to protect our salmon, to protect our southern resident orca populations, are absolutely critical, and its the cooperation and consensus approach to decision making that I believe will set us all free,” he said.

“The salmon don’t know boundaries, the orca don’t know boundaries … all they know is that humans have been interfering with their life cycle.”

Aaron Hill with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society said he was pleased to see the provincial and federal governments working together, but the test of the fund would be how the money was spent, and whether it relied on sound science to get results.

READ MORE: British Columbia chinook salmon populations in decline: scientists

“It’s really important that when we’re making these decisions, we involve scientists from both the government, [the Department of Fisheries and Oceans] and provincial agencies, as well as independent scientists from universities and other stakeholders like conservation groups,” he said.

Hill said while the government has clearly committed a large amount of money to the project, it will need to ensure that it isn’t spent on simply the easiest or most visible attempts at solutions.

He said he’d like to see it used to help move fish farms out of wild salmon migration routes, to protect fish habitat so that it doesn’t need to be restored later at high cost and used to ensure the commercial fishery is properly managed.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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