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Federal NDP calls for emergency salmon summit

The crash of this summer's sockeye run has become a federal political issue, and two B.C. MPs are calling for an "emergency summit" to rescue wild salmon.

NDP MPs Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) and Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) issued the call in a news release on Friday. It quoted Julian as saying:

"The writing was on the wall, yet the federal government has consistently ignored the evidence and evaded responsibility by turning a blind eye to the ongoing collapse of wild salmon stocks.

“Now that 11 million Sockeye salmon have vanished, a crisis of unprecedented magnitude is unfolding for the west coast ecosystem and countless diverse communities whose livelihood and culture depend on wild salmon runs. The time for rhetorical debate is over. The Harper government must make this issue a top priority- now.”

Cullen criticized both the Conservatives and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans:

"The neglect by the conservative government is killing Canada's wild salmon – science is clear and compelling.

"It seems that DFO has not learned the lesson of the cod collapse disaster. The Harper government must acknowledge the dramatic impact of climate change and open-cage fish farms on the people, cultures and lifestyles of the West coast, and take action to protect the ecosystem and communities and prevent a catastrophic outcome."

For a start, the MPs demanded that the government:

• Convene an emergency BC summit on Salmon a with all key stakeholders groups, governments and representatives of fishing, First Nations and Environmental organizations;

• Inject funding into the Salmonid enhancement program;

• Reform the Ottawa-centred management of DFO so the people making decisions about BC fisheries are in BC and tied into the knowledge base of BC stakeholders;

• Inject emergency funding to accelerate the move to a closed containment farming system and rapidly phase out open caged fish farms.

Julian and Cullen pointed out that wild salmon generate 52,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in revenues to coastal communities. Salmon farms create 4,000 jobs and $400 million in revenues, most of which go to foreign shareholders.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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