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Skeena Salmon Community Responds to DFO Approval of Oil Company Science

/ -- TERRACE, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (Marketwired) -- 01/21/16 -- The Skeena River salmon conservation community reacted strongly today to the news that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has accepted that there is little risk to salmon from a $11-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) development proposed to be built on top of the most unique and critical marine salmon habitat on the B.C. coast.

Gerald Amos, community coordinator for SkeenaWild Conservation Trust said:

"As an Indigenous Canadian, I am troubled that our federal fisheries department has accepted the so-called science of a Malaysian oil company, Petronas, and is ignoring the traditional ecological knowledge of the Tsimpsian peoples, as well as the findings of Canada's leading experts on erosion and estuary science, who contend that the project is an enormous risk to Skeena wild salmon."

Amos added, "This action by a federal agency flies directly in the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement that 'no relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.' It also contravenes the mandate letter the Prime Minister sent to Fisheries and Oceans Canada."

That mandate letter instructs the department to "immediately review Canada's environmental assessment processes to regain public trust ... (and) ensure that decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence, and serve the public's interest."

Amos said, "This blithe acceptance of industry's science by the department is hardly a surprise, but it does show how far away we remain from having a major project review process that Canada's First Nations can trust. This serves no-one's interests but a foreign oil company's."

Shannon McPhail, executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, said:

"This watershed is bound together by salmon and people. At best, local communities have been ignored by Petronas and the provincial government. This is an irresponsible project being proposed in the worst possible location and has brought conflict and uncertainty. We are incredibly disappointed that Fisheries and Oceans Canada still places the interests of foreign corporations above that of Canadian citizens."

Chief NaMoks, spokesperson for the Office of the Wet' Suwet'en, said:

"We know how important salmon are to all the people of the Skeena, we know the law, and we know how important Lelu Island and Flora Bank are to every race of salmon in the Skeena. We support our brother and sister Tsimsians, who have said that they will not allow a fracked gas factory to be built on top of Lelu and Flora Bank. I am so disappointed, but being disappointed with DFO(i) is something we are all used to. Canada's relationship with us is still broken, and we need to get on with fixing it. This is not a good start. "

Donnie Wesley, Simoyget Yahaan of the Gitwilgyoots, who is occupying Gitwilgyoots ancestral land on Lelu Island, said: "My family and I have fished this area for untold generations. This is our backyard. The idea that building a multi-billion-dollar industrial facility on top of Lelu Island and Flora Bank will have little risk to salmon is so absurd that it defies understanding. Once again we are ignored and patronized by DFO and the federal government. The Tsimpsian people spoke loudly, and I have been clear from the beginning - Petronas will not be allowed to build this factory on top of our salmon habitat. They are wasting their money and our time persisting with this bizarre project."

(i) Note: DFO refers to the old Department of Fisheries and Oceans, now re-named Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The latest actions by the department will be among a number of critical issues that will be discussed at the forthcoming Salmon Nation Summit to be held in Prince Rupert this Friday and Saturday, January 22 & 23. For information on the summit, see:

Gerald Amos
(250) 632-1521

Yahaan (Donald) Wesley
(250) -600-3354

Greg Horne