A new advisory council tasked with developing a strategy to rebuild B.C.’s salmon stocks will have strong north coast representation.
Prince Rupert councillor Joy Thorkelson, former Prince Rupert community fisheries development centre director Tasha Sutcliffe, and Tsimshian and Heiltsuk fisherman James Lawson have all been selected to sit on the provincial government’s new Wild Salmon Advisory Council.
The 14-person committee was announced on Friday, June 15.
“Wild salmon are crucial to the success of our economy, the prosperity of coastal communities, and the lives, culture, and history of Indigenous peoples,” said B.C. premier John Horgan. “The Wild Salmon Council brings experts together to help develop a wild salmon strategy to protect B.C. salmon today and for future generations.”
Thorkelson — a three term councillor in Prince Rupert — brings four decades of experience with the commercial fisheries to the council as well as a passion for issues affecting the Northwest.
In Dec. 2017, Thorkelson was elected president of the United Fishermen and Workers Union UNIFOR (UFAWU-UNIFOR) where she has been a leading voice in an effort to lobby the federal government to place a higher priority on the west coast’s fisheries.
“We are really trying to let this minister know that…the people that are doing all the work, the fishermen and the shore workers…are becoming poorer and poorer,” she said in an interview with the Northern View at her appointment. “And it’s time the minister took and interest in this coast, as well as the East Coast.”
Thorkelson has also served as a northern panel member of the Pacific Salmon commission and chair of Fisheries Renewal BC.
Lawson — who is a member of the Tsimshian First Nation on his mother’s side and the Heiltsuk First Nation on his father’s side — is passionate about developing sustainable fisheries management in B.C., and will bring his industry experience to the table.
Sutcliffe currently serves as Ecotrust Canada’s vice-president, and has been director for the Fisheries and Marine Program since 2007. Prior to those posts, Sutcliffe was the regional director for the community fisheries development centre in Prince Rupert.
It’s been a tough year for salmon fisheries in the Northwest the Department of Fisheries and Oceans closed recreational fishing for salmon — including chinook, sockeye, pick and coho — on May 8 followed by a May 30 announcement that exploitation rates for chinook would be reduced 25-30 per cent due to conservation concerns.
Work to develop the strategy will begin this summer, with recommendations being submitted in the fall of 2018 to the legislative assembly’s Select Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fish and Food.