I was very disappointed to see the negative reporting by Trevor Hewitt regarding the salmon conservation meeting held on April 24 (“Salmon conservation talk devolves into blame game,” Interior News, May 1, 2019, Page A9). It seems he was at a very different meeting from the one I attended.
Mr. Hewitt did not mention that there were presentations by two very brave young people, Bailey Espersen and Bailey Hinchcliffe, who described to a group of over 150 people what the rivers and the salmon have meant to them growing up in our area and how concerned they are about the rivers and fish.
He didn’t mention the thought-provoking presentation by Mark Beere, the regional fisheries biologist, who described, among other things, the impacts of our very dry summers and climate change.
He did not mention that many of the speakers at the meeting are interested in doing whatever is necessary to conserve the salmon resource, even if it means cutting back on limits or even stopping fishing for some species in the short term, hoping for long term rebuilding of stocks.
He did not mention the excellent presentations of Tom Espersen, particularly in his closing comments, where he stressed the need for all user groups to work together right now toward salmon conservation and habitat maintenance and restoration, including First Nations, to carry a unified message to Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Instead, Mr. Hewitt described the meeting as “devolving into a debate over Indigenous versus non-Indigenous access to salmon.” There certainly were comments by some members of the audience who criticized First Nations fisheries practices, but the responses from elder Violet Gellenbeck and others tactfully calmed the waters, and the meeting moved on.
While actual suggestions for next actions were few, others who attended have told me that they found the meeting to be a very positive first step.
It is a massive undertaking to bring together all user groups and develop a comprehensive plan for salmon conservation and habitat conservation, but one has to start somewhere.
As a community and a region, we should be supportive and proud of the handful of people who are passionate and concerned enough to have made this meeting happen and to take this first step.
Mary Lou Walker