COURTENAY, B.C- Gord Johns is getting a new role.

The Courtenay-Alberni MP has been moved to the role of the federal NDP’s Critic for Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard. Speaking in Courtenay today, Johns said the move is a huge honour.

He believed the change in role from critic from Veterans Affairs, which is going to North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, will be a “big opportunity” for coastal communities to have a voice in Ottawa. He also said he would follow on the work of Fin Donnelly and Jean Crowder.

While saying his priority was getting money into coastal communities and getting investments in fish hatcheries, Johns renewed his call for a suspension of the Salish Sea herring fishery taking place between Comox and Nanaimo.

He believed that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was over-estimating herring numbers this year, and said that herring were absolutely essential to the survival of chinook salmon and southern resident killer whales.

He wants fisheries minister Jonathan Wilkinson to look at ways to both protect herring, and compensate the herring fleet.

“We’re calling on the government to really closely examine the best ways they can protect the herring spawn in our region, but also support the fleet, and compensate them should the government decide to take action and suspend this fishery at some point in time, that they look after those who are trying to keep their boats afloat and support their families,” said Johns.

“They’re absolutely essential to the future of our coast. When we bring our fish back to abundancy, because we have to, we owe it to future generations, and it’s got to be our number one proposal.”

He also said that if the fishery was suspended, the federal government needed to make sure it’s done right.

“Compensation for those fishers (is needed), ensuring that those working on those boats meet the requirements they need for EI,” said Johns.

“The minister has a lot of tools. He has a whole toolbox to support those that might be impacted, but right now we need to protect our high-value food fisheries.”

The fishery is ongoing, as of this publication.