From the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association:

Educators, superintendents and community leaders are expressing their disbelief to the news that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has terminated education support contracts across British Columbia and the Yukon as of July 31, 2017. The decision will severely downsize, if not end, the Department’s Stream to Sea Education Program that involves 35,000 students in the Pacific Region.

The 30-year long program, which provides firsthand education about Pacific Salmon, will likely end for 3,000 students in Greater Victoria and the Gulf Islands alone. Locally, 105 classrooms annually raise wild Pacific salmon in classroom incubators, for release into 15 local streams and rivers. In urban areas, students mark storm drains to raise public awareness about non-point source pollution, and educators can attend free workshops to learn how to raise salmon in a classroom, dissect a salmon, or access and teach relevant curriculum.

The decision will allow the Department will reallocate about $400,000, or 0.2% of its annual budget, to other national priorities.

After fifteen years building community and school partnerships to restore local watersheds, Peninsula Streams Executive Coordinator Ian Bruce sees the Stream to Sea Program as a window into the life of Pacific Salmon. “There are no other opportunities for students to witness the early stages of this life cycle, and in the classroom! This experience is key to the evolution of a stewardship ethic.”

Stream to Sea, like the Goldstream Hatchery and other community involvement activities, leverages $10 for every tax dollar spent. Significant Stream to Sea partners locally include school districts, Pacific Salmon Foundation and Goldstream and Sooke Hatcheries.

“I must admit I was absolutely stunned when I received [the news about the contracts],” was the reaction of Gulf Islands School District Superintendent Lisa Halstead.

Peter McCully, a public involvement program volunteer, advocate and technician for 42 years, has expressed his concerns to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying that the PM must be aware of “the value of this initiative and how it assists the Government in achieving its management goals vis-à-vis our pacific salmon”.

Other cuts announced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada will drastically reduce biological and technical support to organizations like the Goldstream Hatchery, Sooke Hatchery, Peninsula Streams and local streamkeeper activities.”

Despite over 30 years of success in revitalizing depleted salmon stocks through the Salmonid Enhancement Program, the federal government’s Department of Fisheries has decided to discontinue this program and reallocate funds elsewhere. Among other things accomplished by this program, the Salmonids in the Classroom program engages young people in preservation roles by providing schools across the province with salmon eggs that students raise into juvenile salmon before releasing them in local streams. The Department of Fisheries has decided to cut this funding and shift it towards legislative and regulatory policy making instead. Though these acts of environmental protection are also crucial safeguards for protecting our environment, the value of the Salmonids in the Classroom program is too great to lose and needs to be invested in. Our children derive great benefit from learning the role they personally play in ecosystem balance and the investment of providing them this experience benefits society as a whole with informed citizens leading us forward.

Please sign this petition to urge our government to keep the SEP program so that future generations can enjoy the gift of environmental stewardship!