Canada launches C$647 mln strategy to stave off Pacific wild salmon collapse

CALGARY, Alberta, June 8 (Reuters) - Canada launched a C$647.1 million ($535.10 million) strategy on Tuesday to restore Pacific wild salmon stocks that are on the brink of collapse due to climate change, habitat degradation and harvesting pressures.

The investment, first announced in the federal budget in April, will be the largest ever government contribution to efforts to save the species, which has huge cultural and ecological significance on the west coast.

"Many Pacific wild salmon are on the verge of collapse, and we need to take bold, ambitious action now if we are to reverse the trend and give them a fighting chance at survival," Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement.

The government's Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative will focus on stronger science and habitat restoration, stabilizing and growing the salmon populations, modernizing fisheries, and deeper coordination between stakeholders including indigenous people and the fisheries industry.

Pacific salmon have a lengthy 4-5 year reproductive cycle, and the government's measures will be monitored and adjusted over the next five years.

Warming oceans due to climate change are altering the marine food web and resulting in warmer freshwater conditions and more extreme rain and drought, pressuring salmon populations. Species such as the Chinook salmon on British Columbia's Fraser River are in steep decline and struggling to return upstream to spawning grounds each year.

Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans has a legal obligation to prioritise salmon fishing access to indigenous people, but in recent years many First Nations fisheries have been unable to fill their harvest allocations because of low salmon returns.

($1 = 1.2093 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by Nia Williams; Editing by David Gregorio

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