Oil spill a reminder of fragile state of our wild salmon

Apr 26, 2011

Oil spill a reminder of fragile state of our wild salmon

Sometimes a terrible accident presents an opportunity to assess our priorities as a society. We should take last weekend's Goldstream River oil spill as a chance to consider if we are doing enough to protect our wild salmon. 

Wild pacific salmon have tremendous ecological, economic and social importance to our communities, and our way of life as British Columbians. Coastal communities, in particular, depend on a strong salmon population which provides the necessary nutrients to sustain our precious forests, valuable jobs for our communities, and for traditional ceremonial activities for coastal First Nations.

Goldstream River was once home to a thriving ecosystem filled with chinook, chum and coho salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout and smaller invertebrates. The future of the river, however, is now uncertain after a devastating tanker-truck accident in Goldstream Provincial Park on the evening of April 16 that released 42,00 [42,000 or 4,200?] litres of gasoline and 3,100 litres of diesel into the river. Prior to the accident, the river's salmon stocks were in steady decline, with the lowest run on record in 2010. This incident, however, drastically jeopardizes the viability of this once healthy river.
The spill in Goldstream river highlights the fragility of salmon, as a keystone species, and the need for stronger legislation to ensure their protection. Unfortunately, this weekend’s spill represents only a minor threat to the species’ well being compared to the salmon farming industry. Salmon farming off the coast of BC has grown immensely in recent years, with over 100 industrial farm sites off the Pacific coast.

Years of peer-reviewed scientific data prove the negative impacts of salmon farming on wild pacific salmon stores and dispel the propaganda released by organizations such as the BC Salmon Farmers Association. Wild salmon are forced to migrate through the Salish Sea, passing numerous salmon farms where they risk being infected by sea lice, compromising their immune system and becoming easier targets for predators.

Industrial farming dramatically increases the susceptibility of salmon to viruses and diseases, which have presented themselves in other aquatic species through escaped fish and cross-breeding. Farmed fish are pumped full of antibiotics and hormones that are unhealthy for themselves as well as for consumers.

The current federal election presents a valuable opportunity to introduce stronger legislation to protect wild salmon. As citizens, we must ask all of our electoral candidates to outline their platform on salmon protection and where they stand on fish farming off the coast of BC.

Since salmon farming moved from provincial to federal jurisdiction in June 2010, Ottawa has failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect one of our province's most prized species. If we wish to preserve the many salmon species of the Pacific coast, we must vote for salmon.

We can't afford to wait for another devastating spill. The time is now to take all possible measures to ensure the future of our wild salmon.

Cam Gray is the Vancouver Island Outreach Coordinator for the Wilderness Committee in Victoria, BC - www.wildernesscommittee.org