The federal government is giving $142,000 to two projects to rebuild and rehabilitate recreational fish habitats in the Squamish region.
Through the new Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships program, the money will allow the Squamish River Watershed Society to restore Coho salmon habitat in Tiampo Channel, a side channel of the Mamquam River, and will help the Pacific Salmon Foundation improve spawning and rearing many species of fish in Evans Creek, part of the Cheakamus River.
Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who was accompanied by MP John Weston of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, made the announcement in West Vancouver on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
The two projects were submitted during the first round of applications for the program in July. Overall, 28 projects were approved in B.C., with Ottawa providing up to $1.9 million. Up to $10 million will be provided across Canada over the next two years.
As well, it was announced that the money from $7 tidal (ocean) salmon licenses would now go to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to help with conservation efforts. Previously, the money raised through license sales went straight to general revenues. Weston said $1 million was earmarked for the foundation in 2013 because of this change.
Weston called it a "blockbuster day."
"It was an exciting afternoon at several levels. I told a very impressive group of volunteers and fisheries activists the famous saying 'the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.' These are people who are eternally vigilant, not just about fisheries, but the way they engage with the government and articulate the needs of the community is really exemplary," he said.
Weston said the volunteers had spent four years meeting offering "positive proposals." Their program, which was developed with Weston, was put into the 2013 budget.
"We're seeing the fruits of this type of effort all around us, with the return of the pink salmon recently, the whales returning to the area... all of these great things which bring about hope for the fishery and inspire young people to take more responsibility," Weston said.
Dave Brown, the chair of the Squamish to Lillooet Sport Fish Advisory Committee, was one of those volunteers and heard the announcement.
"We were really pleased to hear it. We commend the government for announcing the funding for these projects and we're very pleased that the Evans Creek rewatering project that we put forward has been approved (which will encourage spawning)," Brown said.
Evans Creek runs through Squamish Nation land and the North Vancouver Outdoor School in the Paradise Valley.
"In 2009, (we) expressed concern about the low return of Fraser River Sockeye, which were almost at collapse stage... We contacted John Weston with our concerns and he met with us to discuss them,"
This led to four visits to the riding by the fisheries minister to explore the possible ways of correcting this, Brown said.
Following the announcement, Brown and other representatives met Shea to discuss the lack of implementation of the Cohen Report recommendations almost a year ago, following an extensive inquiry investigation into the collapse of the Fraser River Sockeye run.
"With regards to the Cohen Inquiry, we are four years down the road from the disastrous run of 2009 and we saw back-to-back very low Sockeye returns in the Fraser and Birkenhead Rivers," Brown said, adding that closures of the fisheries in 2012 and 2013 indicate that things aren't getting better.
"The message to the minister is that there's a small window here. We have a potential of a good run returning from that 2010 brood that was very successful in numbers. There's only four cycles of Sockeye salmon, two of them are on the downward spiral. How long are we going to wait?"
Shea said in a press release that support for recreational fisheries sources encourages tourism and creates jobs.
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