13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

·3 min read

The federal government is injecting $10.9 million into 13 B.C. projects trying to protect and rebuild populations of aquatic species at risk.

The projects, focused on either marine mammals, salmonids, or invasive species, were selected as part of an ecosystem-based strategy that targets priority threats to both the animal and its habitat, as well as considers other species in the area. Funding recipients include environmental NGOs, First Nations groups and the provincial government.

In a statement today (Nov. 25) Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said the approach will help build a culture of conservation that empowers organizations to work together.

“Because when nature thrives, our communities thrive,” she said. “By making targeted investments through [this fund], we are able to collaborate with Indigenous peoples and environmental organizations on projects that have the greatest potential to make a lasting impact on our natural environments.”

The money is B.C.’s share of the five-year, $55-million Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, established under the $1.3-billion Nature Legacy Initiative in 2018 to assist protection and recovery efforts through an assortment of partners, and support Indigenous capacity for conservation programs.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) selected the priority areas for funding based on the number of aquatic species at risk, the severity of threats and the potential for lasting benefits on multiple species and ecosystems.

Many of the selected projects in B.C. already underway address to two marine priorities of fishing interactions, including entanglement and bycatch of species at risk, and physical and acoustic disturbance, which includes vessel collisions and marine noise. DFO also identified seven freshwater priority areas in the country, including in B.C. the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds.

The ministry stated the projects will help with recovery efforts of a variety of animals, including resident killer whales and other Pacific whale species, chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon and yelloweye rockfish, among others.

The Watershed Watch Salmon Society in B.C. applauded the investments, with a note of caution.

“Much more is needed, including much stronger efforts to ensure our lands and waters don’t get trashed to begin with,” Aaron Hill, the society’s executive director said. “As good as these projects are, they don’t address the chronic underfunding of core government responsibilities like monitoring and protecting our fish, wildlife and the lands and waters that sustain them.”

In a joint-statement with the fisheries minister, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said the fund follows consistent action by the government to improve water quality and decrease migration barriers.

“By partnering with organizations who are already leading conservation efforts on the ground, we are ensuring our investments will make a real difference in the areas that need it most,” he said.

FUNDED PROJECTS IN B.C.

As part of the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is providing up to $10.9 million in funding to support to 13 projects in British Columbia. Recipients include Indigenous and conservation organizations, the Province of British Columbia, and other groups.

Fraser and Columbia Watersheds Priority Area

Fishing Interactions / Physical and Acoustic Disturbance Priority Threats

Quinn Bender, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View