Epic Fail

 By Al Wood and Ron MacLeod with Photography by Nick Didlick

An excerpt from Epic Fail – Canada’s Fishery Dilemma.

It is clear that a different strategy for saving the salmon is needed. The public of British Columbia have the power to save the salmon. The challenge is to get the public to exercise that power and use it to convince politicians that it is in the politician’s best interests to Speak For The Salmon. And, to do so by enacting and applying measures that ensure the proper conservation and protection of salmon and their habitats.

The first step, then, is a British Columbia wide Speak For The Salmon campaign to get people to bombard governments and politicians (federal, provincial, municipal) with the news that:

Residents want healthy wild salmon stocks in their future because salmon are important to them;

B.C’s  salmon heritage is too important to put to undue risk;

Failure to protect salmon habitats creates an undue risk for salmon survival.

Sustaining a blitz is essential if a good outcome is to follow. Utilizing social media such as websites, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Texting in all its manifestations, blogs, email and so forth provides Speak for the Salmon participants with relatively easy access to a rapid delivery system. Hand written letters still have impact if the volume is high. Articles/op-eds in newspapers and video stories on TV are time consuming but can be very effective. Community meetings to promote community action can be effective. Calling on elected politicians to speak to community groups is another good avenue even though it may be a difficult one for some politicians to handle …. but, that is the nature of accountability.

Citizens need to become  Salmon Speakers.

If a successful blitz causes politicians to come around to accepting and honouring the conservation ethic, then human-made risks to salmon’s future can begin to be ameliorated. In any case, a good first step!

A step that can be made even better if followed by actions to reverse the weakening of habitat protection.

The success of this first step will clear the way to developing and implementing new  ways of managing salmon harvest fisheries…..new ways founded on positive incentives that reflect a true conservation ethic.

Human populations cycle, as do fish populations. One can only hope that the next human cycle is creative and productive, bringing benefits to humanity without bringing enduring harm to other life forms. A questionable outcome, however, given climate change, ocean acidification and the disruptions that likely will be endemic and eventually may set off panicky and irrational responses by governments that finally come to realize that the ‘no problem’ approach to climate change is taking nations in the wrong direction.

What a proposed Campaign is all about is accountability. Just who is accountable for conserving and protecting salmon and their habitats? We know what the Constitution and the Fisheries Act say. But, given the virtual abandonment of responsibility by federal governments going back to Prime Minister Mulroney’s time, the question who speaks for the salmon? remains unanswered. Only the public of British Columbia can force a credible response from  federal, provincial and municipal politicians.

The federal government has abandoned its responsibility by cutting budgets and field staff to the point of turning DFO’s Pacific Region into a hollow shell, bereft of capacity to properly perform vested conservation and protection duties. The recent watering down of protective provisions that were in the Fishery Act is further evidence of structured neglect.

At the federal level, Cabinet and MP’s are caught up in the web of the Prime Minister’s indifference to the issue of salmon survival. Scientists have been muzzled. Field capability has been emasculated. Staff dare not speak out. Indeed, no one in the federal government chain may speak out for the salmon without clearance from the PMO.

On the Provincial side, the B.C. government acts as if it has no legal authority to speak for the salmon and it has for long ignored its moral right to speak on behalf of this marvelous renewable resource that is important to the B.C. public. Important not only in economic terms but also, in terms of societal values, uniqueness and, most importantly, for the culture and livelihood of the First Nation component of B.C.’s population. The Province’s behaviour is strange given that, in the eyes of the public, salmon are an icon that represents a good quality of life.

Several actions taken recently by the federal government have opened the public’s eyes to the pall of indifference at that level to the fate of  salmon habitat. Public trust in the federal government’s position on environmental protection is eroding and will continue to erode as the impacts of that indifference are revealed.

Unless the Government introduces policies that begin to rebuild depleted salmon populations and to provide effective husbandry of all Pacific salmon resources, the Prime Minister risks losing his critical support base in B.C. Federal MP’s have three years before facing an election. Plenty of time for the federal government to ACT, not talk.

The B.C. election in 2013 may be influenced if enough B.C. people let politicians know that they will support candidates who have a strong, positive Pacific salmon platform. Provincial MLA’s have only a few months to ACT, not talk. A relatively short period but still, enough time for the public to drive home the message “We want you to Speak For The Salmon.”

There is an urgent need for a Speak For The Salmon campaign across the length and breadth of British Columbia. A campaign in which the public tell politicians that they want Pacific salmon and are willing to do what they can to save them.

In other words, the public is saying they will only support  candidates who support the  conservation ethic as it applies to wild salmon.

The campaign must not and will not cater to any special interest group.Some may want to use a Speak for the Salmon Campaign to promote their particular interest … such a diversion must not be allowed to happen as it would weaken the focus on the very basic, essential, first and foremost challenge of saving wild salmon.

The Aim is clear and singular: Speak For The Salmon and restore Pacific salmon populations by applying  good husbandry practices now.

Almost half a million B.C. children have participated or are in the school program “Salmonids in the Classroom” (an Optional Course) since it was launched over 32 years ago. Additionally, tens of thousands of adults have volunteered over the years as Streamkeepers: constructing and operating mini-hatcheries; restocking streams;  cleaning streams and spawning grounds of harmful debris; protecting habitat from deleterious practices. Several Streamkeeper groups have been active for well over 30 years. Streamkeepers and school children’s participation  in a Speak For The Salmon campaign could make an over-powering difference.

The challenge is to launch a Speak For The Salmon campaign to have the public speak loud and long for the salmon as a means of convincing politicians that it is in their interest to become salmon conservationists who Speak For The Salmon. 

A Speak For The Salmon campaign will be based on the dictum: healthy salmon equates with clean water which equates with a healthy society. There is need for:

A Speak For The Salmon  package that informs potential supporters about a B.C. wide media campaign to save healthy salmon populations and to restore populations that have been severely depleted.

Creating and staffing a website to carry the message and to receive feedback.

A core of  young people supported by their elders to blitz federal, provincial and municipal politicians, telling them that they have a choice: properly conserve and protect salmon and their habitats, or, risk losing support.

A sustained, no-surrender blitz until there is concrete evidence of a federal course reversal and provincial initiatives to protect salmon habitats.

A successful Speak For The Salmon campaign could reach beyond fisheries and lead to constructive change in how we, as a society, accept accountability for how we exploit and how we utilize our most precious gift — our natural resources.

The full version of Epic Fail is linked here.