Powell River Salmon Society has launched a petition to request that the federal government provide more funding to support its operation.
Salmon society president Sandy Sleath said during the last couple of years the federal government has announced funding initiatives for salmon restoration but hasn’t started issuing any of those funds in the areas that it indicated.
“One of the areas they said the funds were earmarked for were local hatcheries,” said Sleath. “Our current issue is we haven’t had an increase to our federal funding since 1982. With inflation and increasing costs, it makes it hard for us to continue to operate without any increase. It costs us more than double the federal apportionment to operate each year.
“Since the government announced these funds were earmarked for organizations like our own, they have been really slow to respond to requests and applications. We are just trying to speed up the process with the petition and trying to hold the federal government accountable for what they said they are already going to do.”
Sleath said Powell River Salmon Society is a local organization and a mostly volunteer-run operation.
“For us to continue on into the future, we won’t be able to do that without increased funding from the government,” said Sleath. “We can’t just go out and fundraise enough money on our own to run every year.”
More federal assistance is required because local hatcheries do not have the resources of the federal facilities, which have significantly more money and staff, according to Sleath.
However, the local hatchery has had a significant impact on salmonid stocks in the qathet region. While the hatchery originally only restocked chum and coho salmon, which is a less expensive operation, it has also taken on restocking chinook salmon, which is a more expensive proposition, according to Sleath.
“We will typically return 1,200 to 1,500 chinook salmon on average to Lang Creek,” said Sleath. “For our recreational fishery here, the normal runs of fish usually slow down in the middle of July. Because of our run and the timing of the return, we essentially extend the local fishery right through August into September, so we basically extend it by about six weeks of fishing. If the hatchery fish weren’t out there it would dry up around mid-July.”
Sleath said the idea behind the petition is to create awareness about the lack of funding and to try to hold the federal government accountable for a previous announcement, which was to give money out to organizations such as Powell River Salmon Society.
According to the petition, the salmon society has heard many promises over the past 40 years, of increased representation and funding for community hatcheries, and has never seen them come to fruition. The petition states that $647 million is on the table, and none has been made available to grassroots organizations, which are the boots on the ground in trying to save Pacific salmon.
Paper copies of the petition can be found at Marine Traders, Powell River Outdoors (PRO), Black Point Store, Lang Bay Store, Valley Building Supplies, and Top of the Hill store in Wildwood. The petition is as follows:
Whereas the department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) has not increased funding to the community economic development program (CEDP) hatcheries, or made adjustments for inflation, since the program’s inception in 1982; And whereas no public structural audit has been conducted of DFO Pacific staff positions or of the effectiveness of representation of the said staff in ensuring CEDPs have the necessary resources to carry out Pacific salmon enhancement, conservation, and education activities; And whereas any increase in the price of the salmon conservation stamp should be directed towards CEDP and hatchery operations, as these organizations directly supply the fishing opportunity that this stamp allows anglers access to.
Signatories of the petition call upon the minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to: increase annual contribution agreements to Powell River Salmon Society and CEDP programs; allocate any increase in conservation stamp funds to CEDP programs; and ensure proper representation of coastal communities by DFO staff members.
The online petition can be found at petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-3831.