B.C. restaurants remove local salmon from the menu

B.C. restaurants are taking local wild salmon off of their menus in response to declining populations.

The move comes shortly after the decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in June to close 79 commercial Pacific-salmon fisheries in B.C. and the Yukon. That represents 60 per cent of commercial salmon fisheries in the two provinces. The DFO’s decision was prompted by an alarming steady decline of wild salmon numbers over the past few decades.

The Vancouver-based Ocean Wise Conservation Association rates the sustainability of seafood so that consumers can avoid eating over-fished or declining species.

Its director of fisheries and seafood, Sophika Kostyniuk, explained to CBC that the numerous complex factors contributing to the current decrease in salmon populations include climate change causing warmer waters, industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, barriers to salmon migration such as dams, and potential overfishing. 

“Salmon is one of the most complex species out there to manage, to assess adequately and to really understand,” said Kostyniuk.

Restaurants across British Columbia are responding in solidarity by removing whatever B.C. salmon they have left from their menus. Many are instead opting to use native British Columbia salmon that have been farmed in sustainable New Zealand fisheries.

Chef Ned Bell of the Naramata Inn in Okanagan told CBC that wild salmon “is a species that needs all the love we can give it.” For the time being, the former Ocean Wise executive chef has replaced the fish on the menu with lake trout from Kamloops. 

Bell said he is not intending to make a political statement with the move. “I want to know who and where and what and how a species was harvested and if it is abundant. If I can’t answer those questions, then I’m not going to put it on my menu.”

But there is certainly something of a movement underway, with numerous other B.C. restaurants taking similar measures.

“It makes a statement — it allows both the chefs in the restaurants and their customers to really reconsider their options,” said Kostyniuk. She added it also allows chefs to experiment with different species and encourages diversity in consumption.

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