British Columbia

Horsefly River Salmon Festival cancelled because of lack of sockeye

The Festival says the Fraser River near Horsefly, in B.C.'s Interior, usually sees more than 100,000 sockeye salmon. But this year, only 3,000 have come.

Federal Fisheries Minister this week announced a commitment to save B.C.'s Fraser River sockeye

The Horsefly River Salmon Festival says it's been cancelled because of a lack of Fraser River sockeye. (Horsefly River Salmon Festival/Facebook)

The community of Horsefly, B.C., is canceling its annual salmon festival because of a shortage of the main attraction — Fraser River sockeye.

"Basically there's not going to be any fish for anybody to look at," said Maureen LeBourdais, chair of the Horsefly River Roundtable, the environmental stewardship group that organizes the festival.

LeBourdais said the Horsefly River spawning ground in B.C.'s Interior usually sees more than 100,000 sockeye salmon. But so far this year, only 3,000 have arrived.

"It's sad, certainly," she told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon. "It's also frustrating, because this is something that we've seen coming. They haven't just disappeared."

LeBourdais said the decline in returning salmon was being observed even before the virtual collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run in 2009. Low returns that year prompted the Cohen Commission, a 2012 report that made 75 recommendations on how to prevent the decline of Fraser River sockeye.

Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the delay in acting on the recommendations from the 2012 Cohen Commission has been "unacceptable:. (Don Marce/CBC)

Federal Fisheries Minister Dominc LeBlanc on Tuesday committed to implementing the recommendations in that report.

LeBourdais said she's hopeful changes will be made, so the festival and the salmon it celebrates can return, but cautioned there are no easy solutions.

"You can point at fish farms. You can point at logging. You can point at this and point at that and say, 'that's the cause,'" she said.

"But it's us as humans; it's all of us, and the way that we live on this planet. And it's up to all of us collectively, including all levels of government, to make some changes in the way that we live on this planet."

With files from Josh Pagé and Audrey McKinnon