After announcing pay bonuses and perks for its top executives last week, BC Ferries says it is aware of concerns over rising fares, but good people cost money.

"We must attract highly skilled and experienced executives to run what is one of the world's largest integrated marine enterprises," said BC Ferries board chair Donald Hayes during the corporation's annual general meeting on Friday.

Earlier this month, the corporation revealed its chief executive officer Michael Corrigan made $563,000 after bonuses and a salary boost of eight per cent.

Executive vice-president Glen Schwartz saw his "annual incentive" pay increase to $127,008, up $64,298. And Robert Clark, executive vice-president and chief financial officer, saw his bonus jump to $133,711, up $73,359.

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Donald Hayes, chair of BC Ferries, says good people cost money. (CBC)

Today, Hayes justified Corrigan's wage hike, saying the eight per cent jump came only after his promotion from CFO to CEO.

Hayes added executive bonuses serve the corporation well, announcing $26 million in savings and an increase of  $1 million in first quarter earnings compared to last year.

But even BC Ferries CEO Michael Corrigan admitted a reliance on government subsidies, noting 22 out of 25 routes still need the subsidies to break even.

Meanwhile, the B.C. NDP want to change the Coastal Ferry Act in order to end pay increases for ferry executives.

"A simple change to the Coastal Ferry Act would stop these unacceptable annual compensation increases for top ferry executives that have become a tradition in B.C., even as ferry passengers are hit with rising fares and service cuts" said B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix.

With files from the CBC's Luke Brocki