FIN IN THE NEWS: Donnelly completes 25-day Fraser River rafting trip

By Alfie Lau, The Record September 2, 2010

New Westminster-Coquitlam MP Fin Donnelly had heard that this year's sockeye salmon run would be great, but even he was surprised to see how the Fraser River was teeming with salmon.

Donnelly, along with seven students from the Sustainability Living Leadership Program, recently completed a 25-day rafting and canoeing trip down the 1,400-kilometre river and Donnelly was amazed at what he saw.

"When we came into Bridge River, the First Nations fishermen were all along the river. It was the same when we got down past Hope and people were lining the shore fishing," said Donnelly. "And then on the stretch between Harrison and Mission, there were literally hundreds of salmon jumping. It was an amazing sight."

Donnelly said he learned a lot from the trip and fed off the energy of the students, aged 21 to 35, and their facilitator Doug Radies.

"We had heard that this year's run might be 11 or 12 million and now it's going to be double and possibly even triple that," said Donnelly. "I'd really like to know why the drastic change and what contributed to this huge number."

Donnelly has a long association with the Fraser, having swum its entire length twice, most recently in 2000. As executive director of the Rivershed Society of B.C., Donnelly developed the Sustainability Living Leadership Program in 2002 and continues to remain involved with the project. As the current NDP fisheries critic, Donnelly can advocate for a cause near and dear to his heart.

The trip, which ran from Aug. 5 to 29, saw the team paddle up to seven hours a day.

"The one day that we paddled seven hours, some of the students were saying how hard it was," said Donnelly. "I told them that when I swam it, there was a day when I was in the water, cold water, for thirteen-and-a-half hours. ... This trip for me was a lot less stressful physically."

The students got to experience and learn first-hand key sustainability concepts such as food security, watershed stewardship and green economics.

"Each participant learned how to lower their ecological footprint and designed a sustainability project to take back to their community," said Donnelly.

After a short break, Donnelly is scheduled to go to an NDP caucus retreat just after Labour Day and will be back in Ottawa, ready for the resumption of Parliament on Sept. 20.