The federal government is injecting $10.9 million into 13 B.C. projects trying to protect and rebuild populations of aquatic species at risk.
The projects, focused on either marine mammals, salmonids, or invasive species, were selected as part of an ecosystem-based strategy that targets priority threats to both the animal and its habitat, as well as considers other species in the area. Funding recipients include environmental NGOs, First Nations groups and the provincial government.
In a statement today (Nov. 25) Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan said the approach will help build a culture of conservation that empowers organizations to work together.
“Because when nature thrives, our communities thrive,” she said. “By making targeted investments through [this fund], we are able to collaborate with Indigenous peoples and environmental organizations on projects that have the greatest potential to make a lasting impact on our natural environments.”
The money is B.C.’s share of the five-year, $55-million Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, established under the $1.3-billion Nature Legacy Initiative in 2018 to assist protection and recovery efforts through an assortment of partners, and support Indigenous capacity for conservation programs.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) selected the priority areas for funding based on the number of aquatic species at risk, the severity of threats and the potential for lasting benefits on multiple species and ecosystems.
Many of the selected projects in B.C. already underway address to two marine priorities of fishing interactions, including entanglement and bycatch of species at risk, and physical and acoustic disturbance, which includes vessel collisions and marine noise. DFO also identified seven freshwater priority areas in the country, including in B.C. the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds.
The ministry stated the projects will help with recovery efforts of a variety of animals, including resident killer whales and other Pacific whale species, chinook, coho and sockeye salmon, steelhead, white sturgeon and yelloweye rockfish, among others.
The Watershed Watch Salmon Society in B.C. applauded the investments, with a note of caution.
“Much more is needed, including much stronger efforts to ensure our lands and waters don’t get trashed to begin with,” Aaron Hill, the society’s executive director said. “As good as these projects are, they don’t address the chronic underfunding of core government responsibilities like monitoring and protecting our fish, wildlife and the lands and waters that sustain them.”
In a joint-statement with the fisheries minister, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson said the fund follows consistent action by the government to improve water quality and decrease migration barriers.
“By partnering with organizations who are already leading conservation efforts on the ground, we are ensuring our investments will make a real difference in the areas that need it most,” he said.
FUNDED PROJECTS IN B.C.
As part of the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk, Fisheries and Oceans Canada is providing up to $10.9 million in funding to support to 13 projects in British Columbia. Recipients include Indigenous and conservation organizations, the Province of British Columbia, and other groups.
Fraser and Columbia Watersheds Priority Area
- The Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition will receive up to $452,180 over four years to address threats to aquatic species at risk and their associated habitats through conservation, watershed planning and restoration activities within the municipal boundaries of Chilliwack.
- The Canadian Wildlife Federation will receive up to $1,165,900 over four years to increase access to upstream spawning and rearing habitat for targeted fish species at risk by remediating multiple barriers in the Fraser and Columbia watersheds.
- The Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance will receive up to $476,000 over four years to improve fish habitat through a series of targeted restoration projects on three systems in the Nechako River watershed that have been subject to a variety of habitat-related threats.
- The Invasive Species Council of BC will receive up to $525,000 over four years to engage the public, industry and communities to adopt practices that prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species and protect species at risk and their key habitats in the Fraser and Columbia River systems.
- The Shuswap Indian Band will receive up to $1.7 million over four years to protect and restore habitat for all provincially and federally listed aquatic species at risk in the Upper Columbia watershed, build capacity, and conduct outreach, training and education.
- Living Lakes Canada will receive up to $1,095,000 over four years to improve information about foreshore health and species at risk habitat requirements for Upper Columbia Basin waterbodies, and to conserve and restore habitats of highest ecological value. This project uses outreach, collaboration, training, research, monitoring, foreshore mapping, evaluation, planning and regulations to conserve habitat and restore shorelines.
- The Fraser Basin Council will receive up to $356,309 over four years to restore salmon habitat in the Horsefly River Watershed, particularly the areas that have been subject to channel destruction and bank destabilization. Restoration activities conducted as part of this project include stream channel reconstruction, bank stabilization, riparian fencing and in-stream habitat enhancement in key tributaries and riparian areas affecting the Horsefly River.
- The BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will receive up to $600,000 over four years to enable research, engagement, recovery actions, and monitoring to mitigate the impacts of invasive species on aquatic species at risk in the Fraser River and Columbia River Watersheds priority area. The project will focus on collaborative habitat restoration activities to address aquatic invasive species threats, develop species at risk decision support tools, and support population inventory work.
Fishing Interactions / Physical and Acoustic Disturbance Priority Threats
- The North Coast Cetacean Society will receive up to $1.8 million over four years to work on an integrated BC-wide hydrophone network for cetacean habitat monitoring and stewardship. The project will identify noise hot spots and high vessel strike risk for several marine mammal SARA-listed species on the Central and South Coast of British Columbia.
- World Wildlife Fund Canada will receive up to $1,362,983 over four years to advance leading-edge research on whale/vessel interactions, develop real time tracking tools for whales and ships, and collaboratively develop mitigation measures to reduce the impact of commercial shipping on four populations of at-risk whales in Gitga’at traditional territory on the North Coast of British Columbia.
- The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust will receive up to $388,052 over four years to increase awareness of the impact of human-made noise on important feeding habitats for at-risk marine mammals.
- Recommendations will be developed to guide the reduction of human noise disturbance in marine habitats and evaluate the effectiveness of an acoustic sanctuary in Sydney Inlet, a known feeding area for several species of at-risk marine mammals.
- The Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance will receive up to $626,378 over four years to expand on a research project aiming to address threats to Yelloweye and other rockfishes on the Central Coast of British Columbia.
- The Ocean Wise Conservation Association will receive up to $440,000 over four years to improve the WhaleReport Alert System and expand it north to the waters surrounding Haida Gwaii. The project will also expand studies to understand the impacts of fisheries on the Resident Killer Whales’ declining food supply from Vancouver Island’s northeastern coast to more northerly waters to Northern Haida Gwaii.