Salmon conservationists give 2019 BC Budget a mixed review
VICTORIA – B.C.’s provincial government has recently indicated substantial support is coming for restoring B.C.’s wild salmon and the waters they swim in. Watershed Watch Salmon Society was expecting to see these promises take shape in this year’s provincial budget.
“Over the past year we heard a lot of talk from the provincial government about restoring wild salmon and their habitats and developing a made-in-B.C. wild salmon strategy, including several lines in this year’s throne speech. While several of this year’s funding commitments will indirectly benefit wild salmon, there were no funds explicitly earmarked in Budget 2019 for wild salmon,” said Aaron Hill, Watershed Watch Executive Director. “In fact, the word ‘salmon’ does not appear once in any of the budget documents.”
Provincial government staff present during the lockup assured Watershed Watch that funding announcements for wild salmon restoration are likely to come over the coming year, once a strategy is in place, with that funding coming from existing budgets and contingency funds.
The B.C. government’s process for developing a “made-in-B.C. wild salmon strategy” has been heavily criticized for being rushed and handed off to a council dominated by fishing industry representatives, and sidelining interior B.C. communities, academic scientists and conservation advocates.
“Government’s justification for rushing their wild salmon consultations and excluding so many important voices was that they had to get their strategy in place for spending on wild salmon in this year’s budget. We haven’t seen the strategy yet, so that is likely why we haven’t seen the funding. We hope this means that Premier Horgan is taking the time to make sure their strategy is based in science, provides the greatest possible benefit for wild salmon, and will be supported by all British Columbians who care about salmon, and not just the fishing industry,” said Hill.
Despite the lack of explicit commitment to wild salmon in this year’s budget, Watershed Watch joins other conservation groups in commending the funding commitments to Clean BC.
“B.C.’s wild salmon are bearing the brunt of climate change and the provincial government is showing important leadership by addressing B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Hill.
Other welcome funding commitments expected to benefit wild salmon include $2 million for professional governance oversight and a new Superintendent of Professional Governance, support for revitalizing B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Act, increased funding for environmental monitoring and oversight under the Environmental Management Act and the establishment of a new Mines Health, Safety and Enforcement Division.
From the Throne Speech:
Wild salmon are critical to the success of B.C.’s economy, the prosperity of coastal communities, and to the lives, culture and history of Indigenous peoples. Governments, communities and First Nations are charting a path forward to protect and restore wild salmon stocks, implement a transition plan for salmon aquaculture in the Broughton Archipelago, and create a more sustainable future for local communities and workers. The Premier’s Wild Salmon Advisory Council was convened last year, bringing together experts from around the province to develop a strategy for restoring and sustaining B.C.’s salmon populations.
Aaron Hill, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 250-818-0054, firstname.lastname@example.org