Sources of change? Speak up.

Maybe not the best timing for releasing a report — during the Olympics; however the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council released a new report in late February:

Priorities and Strategies for Canada’s Wild Pacific Salmon and Steelhead

If you’re not familiar with the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council it was established in 1998 following the early 1990s Fraser Inquiry into salmon declines. The organization is funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, members are appointed by the Minister.

The organization is intended to: “provide independent advice on conservation and environmental sustainability of Pacific salmon stocks and their freshwater and ocean habitats. The Council’s role is to advise the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the British Columbia Minister of Fisheries and the public.”

In its over ten year existence the Council has published almost 70 different reports and background papers on a range of issues. Many of them provide very good information.

It seems that maybe the Council has finally had enough. This most recent paper comes as close as possible to smacking Fisheries and Oceans and the Province of BC across the face and telling them to “Get a Grip!”

Of course it’s framed in politically polite language; kind of like a kid giving his parents shit — even though he knows that’s where his allowance comes from.

The Council has been disappointed by the inability or reluctance of governments to apply the precautionary approach in ways that assigned tangible value to environmental protection in many of their regulatory and development decisions that ultimately permit the undermining of salmon and steelhead populations.

Also of concern has been the tendency for governments to be reactive to crisis conditions, rather than being proactive in what have often been predictable and preventable situations or initiating habitat ecosystem protection for vulnerable and high-productivity areas.

The “face-slapping” report suggests:  “The need for effective and immediate action by the governments of Canada and British Columbia to fulfill their salmon conservation obligations has never been more important” — lays out five areas of “prioritization of conservation issues and policy advice.”

I understand the organization is limited in how it might lash out and say what actually needs to be said. The organization simply provides advice to various government Ministers. Unfortunately, what starts out as a pretty clear ‘enough-is-enough’ type tone — concludes with five “Ministers should…”

  • fisheries Ministers should….
  • fisheries Ministers should…
  • rinse and repeat three more times….

Sadly, with the release of the British Columbia and federal budgets over this past week — there is a plethora of “Ministers should…”

With federal and provincial governments looking at some substantial red numbers for the foreseeable future, the population of “Ministers should…” is only going to grow — like an H1NoFun virus.

This is not necessarily meant as a criticism of the report — as this is the mandate of the organization… provide ministerial advice.

I suppose a sentence from the last PFRCC Annual Report illuminates the issue further:

A widely held and emphatically expressed view of many British Columbians is that neither the Government of Canada nor the Province of British Columbia is making a sufficient effort to fulfill its legislative and moral obligations to protect and preserve pacific salmon and steelhead stocks.

I might suggest that I am also one of those “many British Columbians”; however, as the story goes we are lucky to live in a democracy — meaning ‘people power’. The “governments” are the elected representatives. Representing who? You and I apparently.

Therefore if many British Columbians don’t think governments are making sufficient effort to preserve and protect wild salmon than they need to do something about it. Many do.

Sadly, change in government policy and mandates does not come from Ministers — nor will it ever. Ministers are simply puppets plopped onto a portfolio (e.g. Minister of Environment, Minister of Fisheries, etc) as little more than interns or temps.

One can envision a Prime Minister or Premier doing the penultimate Cabinet shuffle, handing the Fisheries portfolio with the advice: “don’t do anything stupid or brash” — “just hold ‘er together until the next election…”

Or, these days, the next confidence vote in the House of Commons.

No offence to Ms. Shea the current federal Fisheries Minister; however, I don’t see a rookie minister with a long career in Revenue Canada implementing stunning new fisheries management practices or mandates; or implementing a true ministry-wide ecosystem-based planning model (whatever that is?).

“Legislative and moral obligations”?

The legislated mandate of Fisheries and Oceans Canada is to ensure there are commercial fisheries — why else was the Ministry created? Sure there’s some other words on paper about what they’re supposed to do regarding habitat and “conservation”. However, those words have about as much meaning as this year’s predictions on sockeye salmon returns to the Fraser — Paper Fish

(unfortunately, nobody can eat those words).

Moral obligations?

Now that’s starting to go down a slippery and maybe frippery philosophical road.

If it’s so moral, and climate change is a true issue and threat to salmon, then maybe a few less salmon conferences, a whole lot less flying in jets (maybe Parliament could be done by teleconference), and a heck-of-a lot less driving.

Bottom-line… governments will not be the source of change when it comes to salmon. They like to join the party later. They’re like trendy folks in Los Angeles who show up to every party late — because that’s what cool people do.

Maybe a little less looking to ‘government’ to implement changes — and a lot more looking in our backyards to the water running downstream. If there’s a problem, speak up.

One thought on “Sources of change? Speak up.

  1. LAL

    perhaps you can suggest some ‘paper fish’ recipes to the feds… or do they prefer caviar?…

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