When I was 20, I spent a summer season as a fishing guide on the west coast of Haida Gwaii.
I was working hard to make tuition for university and was drawn to the wild beauty of BC’s north coast and this unique archipelago.
It was an unforgettable experience.
The electric-green of the trees.
Humpbacks so big that when they breached and hit the water it sounded like dynamite.
The massive but peaceful swell of the ocean.
And the glittering beauty of our five species of Pacific salmon.
Lately we’ve been talking a lot about wildfires – and so we should. But let’s also remember that the unusual heat is also hard on this keystone species and the rivers and streams that form a vital part of their habitat.
Small coastal communities that rely on marine-based tourism – from recreational fishing and whale watching to on-water ecotourism – all rely on a healthy marine ecosystem. And an entire food chain in the water depends on healthy salmon stocks.
For too long we’ve relied on the federal government to “get it right” in our coastal waters. It’s a federal responsibility, right?
We need to be playing a better “long game” in BC when it comes to our salmon harvest, habitat restoration plan, and hatcheries strategy.
1,500 salmon bearing rivers and streams. 27,000 kilometers of coastline. That’s a lot to care for.
Where will our salmon stocks be 20 years from now? Where do they need to be?
I think British Columbia can and should play a bigger role. BC should be a driver of salmon recovery and flourishing, because we have the most at stake.
Getting this right means raising up a generation of British Columbians working together in their local watersheds on stream enhancement. It could be a driver of meaningful STEM jobs in the outdoors. And it could provide tangible – and literal – downstream benefits throughout our economic and cultural life.
I’d like to take my kids fishing one day. I want them to experience the thrill of reeling in a powerful salmon.
Our adult southern resident orca whales would like to keep taking their kids “fishing” too.
We can do right by our commercial fishers, tourism operators, Indigenous communities, coastal towns, and ecosystems. We can pass this legacy on to future generations.
Fishing off the west coast of Graham Island taught me that if you’re not getting any bites, it’s time to change bait. It’s time to try something different.
Now is the time to change our approach. It will take science, creativity, and guts to preserve our cherished salmon.