As May 2 creeps closer, all of our federal parties are looking to solidify your vote. In this race, there are key regions of Canada that each party has been targeting in order to win swing ridings.
B.C. is one of these highly contested regions, with all of the parties giving special attention to our voters, and our issues. But in B.C. there is one issue which has been surprisingly absent from the honeyed tongues of most candidates. And that issue is the future of our wild salmon, and what the federal government plans to do about fish farms.
Wild pacific salmon are inextricably linked to the beauty of the west coast. Over 150 of Canada’s iconic species depend on salmon, including killer whales, grizzly bears, eagles and sea lions. British Columbia’s iconic ancient forest giants grow tall, fed by the nutrient rich bodies of spawning salmon.
But today, wild salmon are in trouble. Over the last ten years wild pacific salmon stocks have been in decline. In 2009 almost 90 per cent of the sockeye expected to return to the province’s largest salmon run went missing. This year chum salmon stocks across the province have collapsed, which in turn resulted in devastating impacts on eagle populations.
Concern for the future of wild salmon has transformed into action. All over this province thousands of people are working to protect wild salmon stocks. Last May, over 5,000 people crowded the lawn of the Legislature in Victoria to demand that the government take immediate action to get salmon farms off our coast. First Nations, politicians, fishers and tourism providers have paddled down the Fraser River and walked the length of Vancouver Island to say enough is enough. And this election we are asking candidates where they stand on salmon.
We want to vote for politicians who will put protection of our wild salmon species before profit for the salmon farm industry. We want to vote for politicians who will recognize the threats that open-net fish farming pose to our oceans. We want to vote for politicians that will work to address the toxic legacy of fish farms — the diseases, the sea lice, the impact that antibiotics have on the ocean floor around fish farms. We want to vote for politicians who will protect our coast.
Despite all the energy behind the wild salmon campaign, politicians are surprisingly missing in action on the issues. Thus far, on environmental issues in general, and specifically on protecting Canada’s wild salmon, all of the political parties have been strangely quiet.
There is a brief mention in the Liberal Party platform about ensuring that salmon conservation is a priority in fishery management, but concrete steps they would take are noticeably absent. The NDP have tabled strong legislation that would move from open net fish farms to closed containment, but have not been mentioning the issue much on the campaign trail. The other parties have been silent, missing the boat entirely.
Here in B.C., environmental groups are pulling together to make sure salmon are an election issue.
The Wild Salmon Action Network, a project of the Wilderness Committee, is organizing around the province to bring the issue of wild salmon into the communities most impacted by fish farms. Both the Wilderness Committee and the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) are encouraging supporters to question all candidates in their riding on their party’s position on salmon farming by attending campaign rallies, calling candidates’ offices, showing up at all-candidate debates and asking questions about fish farms.
Salmon warrior Alexandra Morton is travelling around the province, talking to candidates one-on-one and tracking where they stand on the issue of wild salmon. Her tour will end on May 1 with a rally on the lawn of the legislature in Victoria.
The day after that is voting day, May 2. Many voters, especially in B.C., will be going to the polls with the future of wild salmon on their minds.