The B.C. government is setting up a wild salmon advisory council to study the state of wild salmon on the B.C. coast, and will have more to say soon on the salmon farm tenures around Vancouver Island that are coming up for renewal.
The council is co-chaired by Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Nation at Bella Bella on the B.C. Central Coast, and Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley.
Premier John Horgan and Agriculture Minister Lana Popham made the announcement Friday at the B.C. legislature. Horgan said the salmon farm licences coming up for renewal this month on the B.C. coast are up to the federal government, and Popham will have more to say on those in the near future.
The province is in talks with Indigenous communities in the region, some of whom oppose net-pen aquaculture and some who derive their livelihood from it in remote communities on the coast. Some of the farms have been occupied and disrupted by protesters since last summer.
One of the protesters, a woman who identified herself as Tsastilqualus, shouted at Horgan and demanded salmon farms be shut down immediately, dismissing the idea that further discussions are needed. Horgan suggested she cast her vote in the next provincial election.
Horgan said the government will develop its wild salmon strategy over the summer as recommendations from the advisory group come in.
Asked if B.C. salmon farm operators should be nervous about the province’s opposition, after Popham tried to interfere with their operations last fall, Horgan said no.
“I think their concern should be that there is a divide in British Columbia about the continued existence of the industry,” Horgan said. “We need to make sure that we’re working as a government with the primary area of responsibility, which is the federal government.
“The province is responsible for the anchors that hold the nets to the ground. The federal government is responsible for everything else.”
Members of the advisory committee include Green Party MLA Adam Olsen, United Fisheries and Allied Workers’ Union president Joy Thorkelson, First Nations Summit co-chair Ray Harris, Okanagan Nation Alliance fisheries biologist Dawn Machin, Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks, Heiltsuk commercial fisherman James Lawson and Ward Bond, co-owner of Island Outfitters and a member of the Canada-U.S. Pacific Salmon Foundation board.