British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund invests $13 million in 23 projects to revive fragile salmon stocks

On July 5, 2019, Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Lana Popham, British Columbia’s Minister of Agriculture, announced that 23 project proposals under the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) have been approved in principle during the first round. Once agreements are finalized with proponents, these could total approximately $13 million in funding for year one.

Healthy wild fish stocks are vital to the economic prosperity and social fabric of British Columbia’s coastal communities. Wild Pacific salmon, in particular, are intrinsically linked to the identity of British Columbians and are fundamental to the culture of many Indigenous communities.

Over the past several years we have seen declines in key Pacific salmon stocks, which have important consequences for our environment and our economy. Together, the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia are taking action to protect and restore fish habitat and wild fish stocks.

Our government understands the need to protect and restore salmon habitat a key part of our plan to sustain and restore wild salmon populations. Through the new Fisheries Act, which restores habitat protections, and through the historic investments being made through the British Columbia Salmon Restauration and Innovation Fund, we are taking decisive action. Working in partnership with the Government of British Columbia and with Indigenous communities, conservation groups, scientists and industry, I am confident that we can and are making substantive progress in protecting and enhancing our wild fish stocks and in strengthening our fishing industry,” said Wilkinson.

The projects will focus on restoring British Columbia’s wild salmon populations, and target three key areas: innovation; infrastructure; and, science partnerships. Investing in these projects will advance work to restore and enhance salmon habitat to support British Columbia’s fish and seafood sector, and help secure the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon, as well as other wild fish stocks.

Over the next five years, investments through the BCSRIF will help ensure British Columbia’s wild fisheries are environmentally and economically sustainable for the long-term, and that middle-class jobs in the fishery are resilient to the challenges of climate change, as well as evolving economic conditions.

Projects were brought forward by Indigenous communities, industry associations, environmental non-governmental organizations and academic institutions. Each application was reviewed and approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Province of British Columbia. Investments through this program will benefit commercial and recreational fishing and aquaculture, as well as science and research initiatives.

The 23 initial projects selected are located across the province, including:

  • The Cowichan Valley Regional District and partners, including Cowichan Tribes, to conduct an evaluation of the natural boundary of Cowichan Lake to support building critical new water storage infrastructure, to provide flows required to sustain Cowichan salmon populations;
  • The Scw’exmx Tribal Council and partners to assess and rehabilitate degraded habitats in the Coldwater River and Guichon Creek watersheds to improve survival of Thompson Steelhead and Chinook salmon;
  • The Canadian Wildlife Federation will bring together partners, including federal and provincial governments, non-governmental organization, First Nations, and communities to prioritize fish passage remediation efforts across B.C. to maximize the benefits for Pacific and Steelhead salmon;
  • Led by Tides Canada and the Watershed Watch Society, “Connected Waters” will identify priority sites requiring infrastructure upgrades and habitat restoration across the Lower Fraser River watershed, which will support the reintegration of vital wild salmon habitat;
  • A science partnership lead by the University of British Columbia to conduct research on improving the sustainability of capture and release marine recreational Pacific salmon fisheries using new tools and technology;
  • The Sport Fishing Institute (SFI) will develop the Fishing BC mobile app, an online information and catch monitoring tool. BCSRIF will also support elements of SFI’s Vision 2021: an action plan to maximize the social and economic potential of the recreational fishery on Canada’s Pacific coast. The project aims to improve representation of the fishing community and increase participation in the fishing sector by youth, new Canadians, and others; and,
  • Funding to support the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) in conducting a science-based review of hatcheries in the Pacific Region (including community hatcheries and DFO Major facilities) to evaluate performance and the effectiveness of current genetic and genomic tools, in order to optimize salmon production in BC.

The British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund is a 70 per cent federal, 30 per cent provincial cost-shared program. The Government of Canada is investing $100 million over five years for the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, and also providing a one-time investment of $5 million for the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund. They are also investing $42.85 million over five years and also provided a one-time grant of $5 million for the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Indigenous communities, commercial organizations in the wild fisheries and aquaculture sectors, recreational fisheries, as well as non-commercial organizations such as universities and research institutions, industry associations and conservation groups, can apply. The first intake of proposals for the fund, which launched in May 2019, produced a total of 192 applications.

The 23 initial projects that have been selected demonstrate the closest alignment with the following shared priorities:

  • restoration, protection and maintenance of salmon populations and their habitats;
  • improved performance and sustainability of fisheries, and the seafood processing sector; and,
  • strengthened sustainability of aquaculture to ensure the protection and conservation of marine environments and wild fish populations.

Salmon are a part of intricate food webs in both their freshwater and marine environments, affecting everything from tiny zooplankton, to large mammals like whales and bears, to birds of prey.

Wild salmon are culturally important for many First Nations in British Columbia. Wild salmon is also part of the province’s long-running tradition of recreational and sport fishing, which is directly connected to its tourism industry.

Commercial fishing plays a large role in the province’s economy, and it is crucial that we support sustainability in this important industry that creates so many jobs for British Columbia’s coastal communities.

Over this summer, government officials will be working with applicants to further discuss their submissions, and to explore potential options to strengthen collaboration, and increase the scope and scale of their projects. Some applicants may be invited to submit a full proposal, while others will be encouraged to submit a new, re-scoped application during the next round of intake.

Featured 2019 photo (by Storm Cunningham) shows a salmon stream on Vancouver Island, BC.

See BCSRIF website.

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