The day after Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced the immediate closure of the recreational salmon fishery in North Coast B.C., MP Nathan Cullen held a media scrum on May 9.
Many of the questions northern journalists asked Nathan Cullen during his latest scrum focused on what the salmon fishing closure would mean for small business — and what other closures for commercial fishing and First Nations food and ceremonial fish may come.
“One of the things I’ve been very focused on from the start is that we didn’t create any sort of a scenario in which we were pitting one community against another,” Cullen said.
The next steps, he said, shouldn’t stop with closures but continue with a recovery plan.
“There’s no way to feel satisfied with this decision,” Cullen said. “It’s one that impacts so many of our communities, so many people we know. It’s a real condemnation of how we’ve managed this fishery. Such an abundant place like the North Coast has been degraded because of a whole number of factors — the international fleet, climate change, forestry practices over decades — all of these things have just hammered away at what has been one of the most abundant species on the planet.”
He said he will meet with the fisheries minister in the coming days.
Oil tanker ban and Eagle Spirit pipeline
On the same day the salmon closure was announced, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act — Bill C-48 — passed its third reading and was adopted by the House of Commons. While the member of Parliament is glad the bill passed, he said it took longer than he had hoped.
“This has been many decades in the making where generations of people in the north fought for the protection of the coast from the threat of oil tankers,” he said during the scrum. “It took a little bit longer than I’d hoped, but now that’s out of our hands, we have to turn our eyes toward the Senate.”
The Northern View asked Cullen about the proposed Eagle Spirit Pipeline, which may bypass the oil tanker ban by directing the project to end in Hyder, Alaska — past Canadian restrictions.
“The Eagle Spirit (pipeline) has come forward and asked for an exemption zone on the very northern end of the North Coast tanker ban,” he said, explaining that the company and several First Nations bands have said consultations for the legislation were not done properly.
“I’m a big believer in creating proper consultations [with First Nations] regardless of the opinions that I have on any given issues. I told the federal government a number of times they have to get this right,” Cullen said, “because passing legislation that’s this important in a bad way doesn’t make it any better.”
North Coast fishers present in Ottawa
Cullen also mentioned the young fishers who visited the nation’s capital to present to the fisheries committee last week. The fishers flew from Prince Rupert to argue the owner-operator system should apply to the West Coast as it does in the East Coast, with the person who owns the fishing licence being the same person who fishes with it.
Cullen explained the fishers’ presentation to media, “about how the owner-operator system must be brought to the West Coast because there’s no future for young fishermen. If all they get to do is fish for somebody else who makes the profits while they make the effort.”
Create your Canada
Next week, Cullen will be touring his riding with stops to Terrace, Smithers and Prince Rupert.
“The contest is very simple,” Cullen said. “If you have an idea about a law you’d like to change, a way to make Canada better, you write it down and send it to us.”
A volunteer committee then works with the winner, who will be flown to the House of Commons in Ottawa, and the bill will be drawn up and introduced for voting in the fall.