Federal cuts to salmon enhancement programs have been reversed.
Budget cuts made in late May would have affected the hands-on curriculum that teaches students to be stewards of wild salmon. In early June, DFO decided to delay its cuts for one year, but after Thursday, June 15, the federal government reversed the cuts indefinitely.
The announcement was made at the standing committee on fisheries and oceans in Ottawa. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will restore resources to ocean search and rescue services and its educational programs.
The Salmonid Enhancement Program will receive approximately $27 million in federal funding this year.
“There will be no reductions to the Salmonid Enhancement Program: all these programs will continue. This includes the educational and technical contracts that support Stream to Sea and Salmonids in the Classroom, the SEP Resource Restoration Unit, and the hatchery production of Steelhead and Cutthroat trout,” said Vance Chow, spokesperson for DFO.
If DFO had withdrawn resources from the Salmonids in the Classroom, or Sea to Stream program, it would have affected approximately 175 students in Prince Rupert School District who study the life cycle of salmon.
The program gives students the opportunity to learn first hand about salmon releases, habitat restoration and egg fertilization in both English and French languages. A petition circulated two weeks ago, along with several stories by media about how the cuts would affect various rural communities, including Prince Rupert.
“I’m very proud of B.C. for stepping up. It is our culture our heritage. A person who is a volunteer, or First Nations, or a commercial or recreational fishermen all have ties to salmon. I’m very excited the status quo has been returned,” said Mike McDowall, French immersion teacher and board member with the Prince Rupert Salmonid Enhancement Society.
Funding will also be restored to staffing the habitat restoration team at the Oldfield Creek Fish Hatchery.
“These are the folks we rely on, the training and educated folks we can consult on. These folks can provide us with all the scientific information we need so we can continue on with our projects,” McDowall said.
The Salmonids in the Classroom program has been available in B.C. and the Yukon for 30 years. Cullen stated in a press release that public uproar was largely responsible for why DFO decided to reverse its cuts.
“This program is incredibly important in helping to teach children about the value of wild salmon to First Nations culture and to B.C.’s entire economy so that students can help protect our precious resource for future generations.”
For anyone who had concerns about losing the program, McDowall has invited them to come out and volunteer at the hatchery. This Saturday, June 16 at 10 a.m. the Oldfield Creek Fish Hatchery is releasing salmon.
“Even if its an hour of your time we could use those extra bodies,” he said.