First Nations, Union Appeal for Help for Commercial Salmon Fishermen

John Crawford

First Nation and union leaders say there is a desperate need for relief for commercial salmon fishermen on BC's coast.

Advocates held a news conference in Vancouver Monday, saying the federal and provincial governments need to step in to help fishermen through the worst commercial fishing season seen in 50 years as runs have plummeted for all species and in all regions.

Prince Rupert's Joy Thorkelson, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union (Unifor), says at least 2500 people have been affected by the downturn.

Bob Chamberlain, a former vice-president of Union of BC Indian Chiefs, says the government needs to come up with diverse solutions since global warming is an added stressor for salmon, "and we're here today to call upon the government for disaster relief for the communities that still rely on commercial fishing, up and down this coast; the hardship that is now foisted upon hard-working Canadians is a very large problem within the communities."

Lax Kw'alaam Mayor John Helin, who's also a former gillnetter, says the lack in salmon has put pressure on other species of fish and there's been a decline in their numbers.

He suggests one of the solutions could be a cull of seals and sea lions.

He asked "how do we diversify what we do on the coast, and with the lack of salmon, there's pressure put on other species and how do we work together to find solutions?  It's just not happening right now."

A statement from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the government understands and empathizes with the economic impacts of the declining salmon returns.

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