Collaboration was a key message in Saint John at the eastern launch of the International Year of the Salmon.
Indigenous communities helped host the event, with the aim of raising awareness and igniting action to protect salmon populations around the world.
Ramona Nicholas and Edward Perley of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, along with students from Chief Harold Sappier Elementary School from St. Mary’s First Nation, were part of the event.
This year will focus on raising awareness and undertaking measures to protect salmon populations worldwide. The North American wild Atlantic salmon is of particular interest in these parts with the Atlantic Salmon Federation reporting 2017 numbers were down 15 per cent overall from the previous year with declines, as a whole, going on for decades.
There was a promise from government that the Year of the Salmon presents an opportunity for everyone.
“Over the next year and well into the future Fisheries and Oceans Canada plans to significantly enhance its focus on actions to preserve and rebuild wild salmon stocks,” said Sean Casey, Charlottetown MP and parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries & Oceans and the Coast Guard.
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While there was a spirit of collaboration to protect and preserve the salmon there was both finger pointing and defensive stances taken when it comes to salmon farming in the Bay of Fundy.
“It’s recognized as a marine threat to wild Atlantic salmon,” said Robert Otto, chief operating officer of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “We believe that some meaningful action is needed.”
The group representing fish farmers in the region was quick to respond, saying Otto’s comments were unfortunate.
“The Atlantic Canada fish farmers and our industry have been collaborating on saving and conserving our wild Atlantic salmon for more than three decades,” added Susan Farquharson, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Fish Farming Association.
At the end of the day there remains optimism for the future of the species.
“Like the salmon, the salmon teaches us to keep going, to keep doing what we need to do,” said Patricia Saulis of the Maliseet Nation Conservation Council.
“It’s that spirit of perseverance. It’s that spirit of determination.”
The International Year of the Salmon will also focus on understanding the present status of salmon, the natural and human factors that affect them, and the ways in which communities can contribute to their sustainability.