The Province – K̓áwáziɫ Marilyn Slett — Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation, President of Coastal First Nations and co-chair of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council to British Columbia — describes the urgency of the salmon crisis and the immediate need for collective action. The importance of healthy salmon populations for coastal First Nations cannot be overstated— especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which has driven home the need for food security in these Nations. Connecting land and marine ecosystems throughout the coast, salmon has been the lifeblood of coastal economies and First Nations’ culture for thousands of years.
Although the factors causing salmon declines are varied and complex, we know the main causes. Cumulative impacts from more than a century of mismanagement, industrial logging and overfishing, plus climate change, have led to these record low salmon returns. And just as the bottom has dropped out of salmon abundance along the Pacific Coast, we’ve also seen a drastic reduction in monitoring programs by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
First Nations along BC’s North Pacific Coast have made progress, through the Great Bear Rainforest agreements and others, toward ending destructive logging practices and reducing exploitation of fisheries through limiting catches and enforcing strategic closures. We have protected important salmon-bearing watersheds and implemented ecosystem-based management in others, while establishing new stock assessment and catch monitoring programs across our territories.