'It has been horrible': B.C. salmon fishing industry ask feds to provide disaster relief
TORONTO -- The commercial fishing industry in British Columbia is in turmoil.
Nick Stevens, who has fished for salmon off the coast of B.C. for 50 years, told CTV News that this season is the worst he’s experienced.
“It has been horrible,” Stevens said. “I have spent more time at home than I ever have in my life.” The fisherman hasn’t been out on the water because there aren’t enough salmon to sustain multiple commercial openings.
“I do not think I made $10,000 this year,” he said.
On Sept. 9, advocates held a press conference to ask for the federal government to step in and provide disaster relief to help a struggling industry.
“British Colombia’s coastal salmon fishery is experiencing a disaster,” said Gavin McGarrigle, regional director of Unifor Western. “It’s hard to overstate the importance of the salmon run to local economies up and down B.C.’s coast.”
He added: “There is an industry wide consensus about both the degree of the disaster and the urgent need to help workers and communities impacted by the collapse of the 2019 salmon run.”
A warmer than average climate in B.C. has drastically affected the salmon run this year.
“The impacts of this climate change disaster has been coast wide,” said Joy Thorkelson, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union at the press conference. Adding that at least 2,500 people have been affected by what’s been going on.
“We need to talk to the government about what climate change adaptation is going to look like for the commercial industry in the future, but we need something to keep the bodies and souls of those people together,” she said.
The fishing industry also faces problems with habitat destruction and open-net fish farms accused of spreading disease to wild salmon.
So far, the federal government has not responded to the industry’s plea for help.
Bob Chamberlain, a former vice-president of Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, is calling on the government to come up with diverse solutions since global warming is an added stressor for salmon.
Communities across B.C., including First Nations people, have relied on salmon as sustenance for decades.
“Lack of salmon means lack of food,” said John Helin, mayor of Lax Kw’alaams Band. “How are families going to eat this winter? Our people are in very hard places.”
Stevens shares the same concerns.
“It’s going to be tough to get through the winter,” he said. “Everything costs a lot to live out here.”