Environment minister’s basic lack of salmon knowledge incredibly worrying, says Cullen

QUEEN CHARLOTTE CITY – Skeena—Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen says the federal environment minister’s basic lack of knowledge about salmon is incredibly worrying, given her recent approval of the Petronas LNG plant next to sensitive salmon habitat at Flora Bank near Lelu Island.

In an interview with CBC’s On The Island on Wednesday, McKenna referred to Flora Bank as a salmon “spawning area”. Cullen says that’s problematic. “Anyone who has opened the book on salmon knows that salmon don’t spawn in estuaries. If the minister and the people briefing her haven’t grasped that basic knowledge yet, and are still getting that basic science wrong, then that calls into question her ability to sign off on projects like this.”

Cullen noted that the minister based her positive decisions on a flawed, Petronas-funded engineering report that was not peer-reviewed, and that was rejected three times by the federal review panel before finally being accepted as evidence. Meanwhile, published, peer-reviewed research by Simon Fraser University and the Skeena Fisheries Commission detailed a major threat to Skeena salmon by the project – but it was ignored by the review panel and the minister.

In March, 130 respected Canadian and international scientists wrote the minister, outlining scientific flaws with the company-funded engineering report, as well as the sensitivity of Flora Bank as crucial staging grounds for Skeena salmon.

“McKenna ignored their advice,” says Cullen, “and it is already starting to show.”

Cullen is on Haida Gwaii attending the Royal Visit today, but the federal NDP raised the issue in the House of Commons. MP Linda Duncan, the NDP’s new environment critic, rose during question period to hold the government to task, asking McKenna, “How can Canadians have confidence that the minister’s measures will protect the environment and our salmon when she doesn’t even know where salmon spawn?”