The Pacific dogwood, Steller's jay, spirit bear, and western red cedar are all living symbols of British Columbia.
Now, the iconic Pacific salmon is poised to be added to the list of the province's official symbols.
Today (February 20), B.C. minister of justice Shirley Bond introduced omnibus legislation—Bill 8 (Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2013)—that would establish Pacific salmon as the provincial fish emblem.
"The Provincial Symbols and Honours Act currently lists B.C.'s floral, mineral, tree, bird and mammal emblems for British Columbia that have been deemed by government as a representative symbol for the province. As with other jurisdictions that have official fish symbols, and in keeping with rationale of establishing symbols in general, this act will add the Pacific salmon as the provincial fish emblem to recognize the high ecological, cultural, and economic significance of the Pacific salmon to British Columbians," states a news release from the Ministry of Justice.
Environmental conservation groups and the NDP had called for Pacific salmon to be made a provincial symbol.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-West End, told the Straight he hopes the move will buoy efforts to protect wild salmon.
"We saw with the elevation of the spirit bear to be an official symbol, that I think helped and continues to help in the argument around protecting the Great Bear Rainforest," Chandra Herbert, who in 2010 introduced a motion in the legislature calling for the fish emblem, said by phone. "So I hope having the Pacific wild salmon as a symbol of the province, it will push the province to take more seriously its role in protecting salmon and helping repair the damage that we as humans have done to areas that salmon spawn and pass through."
According to Bill 8, the Pacific salmon in question include those fish falling under the genus Oncorhynchus, including cutthroat trout, pink salmon, chum salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, sockeye salmon, and chinook salmon. The legislation would give cabinet the authority to select a symbol to represent the salmon.
"Not only are Pacific salmon integral to the culture, well-being and livelihood of B.C.'s First Nations - they are often seen as indicators of overall ecosystem and wildlife health and important to environmental sustainability. Pacific salmon are also a significant economic driver in British Columbia due to commercial and recreational fisheries," the Ministry of Justice release says.