Conservation groups are asking the provincial government to consider designating the Pacific salmon as B.C.'s official fish.
The proposal was put on the table Wednesday as the province enters the peak of its salmon fishing season and a federal commission investigates the decline of the sockeye.
David Marshall, with the Fraser Basin Council, said most of the public already associates the province with the fish, so taking the next step shouldn't make a splash.
"A lot of people have said to me, isn't it already the B.C. fish and what's taken us so long? So the time has come."
The council, along with the Pacific Salmon Foundation and a third non-profit called Living Rivers have passed the recommendation along to the premier, as well as the environment, forests and agriculture ministers.
The report, called "Do we make it official? Recognizing Pacific salmon as a BC emblem," features pledges of support from numerous municipalities, regional districts and First Nations groups and showcases positive comments from the public.
The report says a poll conducted in October 2010 by Mustel Group found 85 per cent public approval for designation of Pacific salmon as B.C.'s fish. It also noted 93 per cent named the Pacific salmon as the province's most iconic fish.
Marshall said the aim of the symbolic move is raising more awareness of the salmon's economic, cultural and environmental significance in efforts to promote sustainability.
"We now have a tree, we have a mammal, we have a bird, and we don't have a fish," Marshall said. "Culturally, socially, economically, it's important to this province."
Environment Minister Terry Lake, who recently received the report, said it's worth testing the waters.
"Just speaking for myself, it's got a lot of merit," he said. "It's a worthwhile conversation to have with my colleagues in government, but I don't want to make any commitments at this time."
Move would be symbolic
But even if the government were to legislate the salmon, including all its seven species, onto the books, the move would remain entirely symbolic.
The groups are not requesting any policy changes accompany the designation, such as adding protectionist measures, Marshall said.
Instead the hope is the formal measures would rally people around the fish, raise awareness about its value and promote sustainability programs around the creature and its watershed.
"It could be a catalyst for actions," Marshall said.
B.C. has designated five other nature-sourced over the past 60 years: Pacific dogwood as the official flower, jade as the official mineral, the Stellar's Jay as the official bird, western red cedar as the official tree, and the Kermode Bear, or Spirit Bear, as the official mammal.
Dogwood gained protective legislation along with its status in 1956, but it lapsed in 2002.
NDP tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said his party supports the move, which is why he introduced a motion more than a year ago to make the designation — though it has yet to sink or swim.
He suggested the government finally address the issue in its upcoming throne speech, in early October.
"If it is an official fish and it's threatened, I would think the government would have to respond in a bigger way than they have so far," he said.
"Ideally, there would be other changes for the species. But I think it would be a good first step."
Alberta has named the bull trout as its official fish.
Other noteworthy if unusual provincial symbols include Charlottetown soil as P.E.I.'s official soil and needle-and-thread grass as Saskatchewan's official grass.
B.C. held consultations last year into naming an official fossil, but the designation has yet to be set in stone.