MP Nathan Cullen Joins Historic Skeena River Swim

Hazelton — MP Nathan Cullen has long been a vocal advocate for the protection of the Skeena River but yesterday he took the plunge to support local resident Ali Howard in her effort to swim the entire 610km of BC’s second longest river.

The swim, which Howard began July 21st, aims to raise awareness of threats to the Skeena and unite residents throughout the watershed around a new vision for the river’s future.

“The Skeena is an immensely powerful river,” said Cullen, “it has fed the people of this region since before Canada was formed and is crucial to fishers along its shores and at its mouth on the Pacific Coast.”

The Skeena River is home to one of Canada’s last wild Salmon runs, hosting a diverse population of migratory fish and supporting British Columbia’s second largest salmon fishery.

“My swim is inspired by the salmon,” said Howard, “They’re a powerful metaphor of connectedness and an important part of our way of life. Everything that happens in our watershed affects the salmon.”

Both Howard and Cullen have been involved in efforts to protect the Skeena watershed from the risks of coalbed methane drilling. Royal Dutch Shell has proposed the drilling of over 1,000 gas wells in the Sacred Headwaters, the alpine origin of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers.

“The people of the Northwest really came together and fought to win a moratorium on coal bed methane drilling in the headwaters,” said Cullen. “I am supporting Ali in her swim because she is also trying to imagine a positive future for the river and for the region.”

The river route involves many hazards including rapids, waterfalls, log jams, and whirlpools. In addition to a drysuit protecting her from the frigid water, a professional safety team will accompany Howard.

While Cullen was aware of the potential risks of swimming such a powerful river, he had faith in the team. “These guys are really pros. They know the river and safety is everyone’s first priority,” he said. “This river is so important to the region that I think everyone needs to be prepared to put something on the line for its protection.”

Cullen joined Howard in her swim from Kispiox Village to Hazelton, BC. “I enthusiastically support what Ali is undertaking here and am glad to have the chance to swim a small part of this great river with her.”

Follow Ali and her team down the rest of the Skeena and check out their video and audio blogs at the Spirit of the Skeena Swim Homepage