10 years after Salish Sea is named, experts say united front on conservation still distant
A decade after the Salish Sea was named with the hope nations would improve collaboration on conservation, scientists and First Nations say that has not been fully realized and the waterway is suffering because of it.
The 18,000 square kilometresea encompasses inland waterways stretching from the south end of Puget Sound in Washington State to Desolation Sound at the northern end of the Strait of Georgia in B.C., including the Juan de Fuca Strait.
The name, adopted by the province and First Nations leaders in 2010, pays homage to the use of the waterways for thousands of years by Indigenous people.
Marine biologist Bert Webber, a member of the advisory board to the Salish Sea Institute, was an early proponent of the name change.
"If we're going to understand it, and if we're going to protect it, it really needs a name. If you don't have a name, you really don't have any way of talking about something," Webber told All Points West in August.
Stz'uminus elder George Harris from Vancouver Island brought the idea of a name change to the province in 2008.
"To us it was always one anyway. We didn't put the Canada-U.S. border in ... [it] divided our Coast Salish nation," said Harris, also on All Points West.
Pandemic impacting collaboration
The sea doesn't recognize borders either.
Thirty per cent of the freshwater that ends up in Puget Sound comes from the Fraser River. And the Southern Resident Killer Whales, as well as many species of salmon, swim freely across the 49th parallel.
This means environmental policy in Canada and the U.S. are sometimes connected. But Webber said collaboration has been difficult during the pandemic border closures:
"Telephone conversations and emails back and forth are just not the same as being able to come together in creative groups of people that are talking about common problems, and working toward common solutions."