(October 4, 2007 – Vancouver) The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC) today released two key reports
about the effect of global warming on British Columbia salmon at a news conference at the Vancouver Aquarium. The reports, Helping Pacific salmon survive the impact of climate change on freshwater habitats: Pursuing proactive and reactive adaptation strategies, and Case study perspectives from the Okanagan, Quesnel, Nicola, Cowichan, Nass, and Englishman River watersheds, present specific examples of adaptation strategies they recommend the government implement to save BC’s wild salmon.
“One of the most serious issues facing Pacific salmon is global climate change and its impact on ocean and freshwater environments,” says Paul LeBlond, chair of the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (www.fish.bc.ca). ”Wild salmon are a valuable gift from the sea, and we need to re-balance our approach in British Columbia to ensure the future of Pacific salmon in light of new risks related to climate change.”
The main report identifies both structural and policy adaptation strategies to help the salmon survive global warming. Structural measures cover engineering or technology-focused innovations that can be implemented on the ground to either help salmon adapt to climatic changes, mitigate the effect of changes in habitats, compensate for climate-induced losses to salmon, or restore habitats affected by past deterioration in habitats. These include installing fish ladders, siphons or reservoirs to mitigate changes in temperature or flow rates.
A second type of adaptation strategies recommended involve policies and rules that the federal and provincial governments should put in place to enhance the availability of water and properties for the benefit of salmon. These strategies should encourage positive human behaviour, innovation, and technological changes to help mitigate the effect of human and climate-induced disturbances on salmon and their freshwater habitats.
The second report presents a sample of issues affecting salmon and their adaptation to climate change in a local context of geography, people and salmon at three interior and three coastal basins in British Columbia – the Okanagan, Quesnel, Cowichan, Nicola, Nass, Englishman River watersheds.
“Migrating salmon are very sensitive to warming of river waters and changes in stream flow,” says Leblond. “Low water flows in the late summer can block access to spawning grounds and winter flooding can wash eggs out of the gravel. Climate change is impacting the salmon’s food supply and the abundance of their predators. We must take the actions needed to protect and restore conditions that will enable Pacific salmon to both survive and thrive.”
The report urges governments to take proactive action on climate change. Salmon survival, reproduction, and growth are fundamentally linked to water temperatures in freshwater environments. British Columbia can provide an important stronghold for salmon and thermally suitable habitats in the context of climate change.
The report calls for changes to the provincial Water Act, Fish should be specifically acknowledged in the legislation for their beneficial uses, for example specifying that licenses for the conservation of water for fish are equal in value to licenses for other purposes. As well, given the link between surface water flows and groundwater supplies, the Act also needs stronger powers to better control the location and quantity of groundwater extracted so that this occurs within ecologically sustainable limits.
“The ultimate goal of reforming water legislation should be to ensure we have sustainable use of water for all users, not just people,” says Leblond. “Governments must prioritize, establish, and enforce conservation objectives that are binding through legislation, bilateral agreements, land and watershed plans, as well as municipal bylaws.”
The report notes that governments and local communities often face barriers to helping salmon because of a lack of political will at a regional level or a lack of appropriate planning and implementation at a local level. Helping salmon survive the impacts of climate change will require smart assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation of alternative strategies to identify successes in the short and long-term.
Copies of both the main report and the case studies report are available at www.fish.bc.ca. Media backgrounders for each of the six case studies are also available on the News section of www.fish.bc.ca
The Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (www.fish.bc.ca) was created in 1998 and is an independent advisory body whose mandate is to alert and inform the federal and provincial governments and the public on issues that threaten Pacific salmon and their habitat.
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