Move over, dogwood flowers and western red cedar trees – British Columbia could soon have another official symbol.
A trio of conservation groups is calling on the province to recognize wild Pacific salmon as B.C.’s official fish. If government approves the move and things proceed swimmingly, Pacific salmon would join spirit bears and Steller’s jays as the province’s animal-kingdom emblems.
“Pacific salmon have long been connected to cultural traditions and well-being of first nations, to lives of those in the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, and to all British Columbians as a true icon,” said Brian Riddell, chief executive officer of the Pacific Salmon Foundation. “We believe the designation of Pacific salmon as B.C.’s provincial fish is a great way to raise awareness of their value to British Columbians.”
Pacific Salmon Foundation, Fraser Basin Council and Living Rivers have delivered a report to Premier Christy Clark that claims there is strong public support for making Pacific salmon a B.C. symbol.
A Mustel poll conducted for the conservation groups in October, 2010, found 85 per cent of British Columbians supported the idea. And 93 per cent of those polled chose Pacific salmon as B.C.’s most iconic fish.
This isn’t the first time the issue has been discussed. New Democrat MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert brought forward a motion in June, 2010 calling for salmon to be named the provincial fish.
The conservation groups said Wednesday all parties need to work together on what should be viewed as a non-partisan effort. Naming Pacific salmon an official symbol would require an amendment to the Provincial Symbols and Honours Act.
Ms. Clark referred questions to Environment Minister Terry Lake, who said he personally supports the measure.
“I don’t speak for government,” he said. “I think that’s something we’ll have to have a conversation about. But from my point of view, if you were going to have a fish, I can’t think of a species of fish that would represent British Columbia better than the Pacific salmon.”
Mr. Lake said the matter will be discussed in the legislature, though he couldn’t specify when.
The conservation groups recommended that all seven Pacific salmon species – chinook, sockeye, coho, chum and pink salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout – be recognized collectively.
“We asked in the survey, and people prefer to recognize Pacific salmon as a group,” Mr. Riddell said. “I think what it really comes down to is that the particular species of importance is really dependent on where you live in the province.”
When asked why British Columbia should designate Pacific salmon as an official symbol when the polling data already indicates the fish are highly regarded, Mr. Riddell said it never hurts to continue raising awareness.
The report also addresses whether it would be better to take action that directly benefits salmon instead of declaring them an emblem.
“Thankfully, this is not an ‘either-or’ situation. The proposal to designate Pacific salmon should go hand-in-glove with measures in the public, private and non-profit sectors to promote salmon abundance over the long term,” the document said.
Dogwood flowers, western red cedar trees, and the mineral jade are other emblems recognized under B.C.’s symbols act.