If you have ever travelled in British Columbia, you’ve likely tried salmon. Salmon candy, smoked salmon, canned salmon, sushi, salmon burgers, crispy salmon skin (mmmm my favourite). Even salmon oil is sold in capsules. Wild salmon is the focal species of many economies and cultures on the West Coast of Canada and arguably the USA too (hey neighbours – Washington, Alaska, Oregon).
I’ve had the privilege of eating salmon in many places small and large: Vancouver, Portland, Masset, Seattle, Bella Bella, Prince Rupert, Terrace, Merritt, West Kelowna, the list goes on and on. I love my salmon wild, fresh and preferably shared at a family table. In fact, tonight we ate our last jar of canned salmon (made into delicious salmon burgers) gifted to me from my friend Uncle Alvin from Haida Gwaii.
The photo above was snapped with my iPhone during my first trip to Haida Gwaii in 2011 – Uncle Alvin taught us visitors how to filet salmon. We clumsily sliced the glorious silver and deep orange king of fish. It was both documentary and comedy show. Cutting salmon with a super slender, ultra sharp knife is slippery work, ripe for the teasing and giggling at the awkward Yahtzadee* slicing the fish before it would be brined and smoked. “Hurry up Miranda, jeesh. Cut straight already,” my friend chided, tricky smile across his face.
Haida Gwaii is often compared to Canada’s galapagos because of the abundance of flora and fauna, the remote nature of its location and the ancient culture of its original inhabitants: The Haida. They’re a generous, kind people whose community lifelines depend on salmon. EVERYONE has salmon stocked in their freezer, pantry shelves and cupboards, as long as the runs are plentiful, which isn’t always so these days. Salmon is the currency of love and rejoice. Salmon is gifted and served everywhere from naming feasts to funerals, birthdays to BBQs.
I’ve been gifted salmon and I’ve bought salmon. I’ve learned first hand from people across British Columbia about the importance of this precious resource. We’re at a pivotal point in Canadian history – as salmon stocks continue to be volatile due to various proven pressures, there are some future pressures we can avoid.
So when we are thinking about what we as Canadians and visitors to salmon-dependent communities can do for the fish and the people who depend on them, perhaps we can ask questions of people in decision-making roles in the following weeks. What will Canada’s power brokers be doing to ensure this important, wild and delicious resource be managed and conserved with the long game in mind, not the short.
* The Haida word for white person.