CAMPBELL RIVER -- A B.C. First Nation is raising concerns about the condition of grizzly bears along the province's central coast, saying that poor salmon returns are resulting in poor health for the iconic species.

Jake Smith is a guardian watchman manager with the Mamalilikulla First Nation. He says it’s heartbreaking to see how malnourished some of the bears are becoming.

"It's pretty sad to see these grizzlies starving and their health condition," he said. "I know we have tons and tons of concerns with these grizzlies."

Smith's role is to monitor environmental and wildlife concerns within the territory, which includes the Hoyea Sound on the mainland, across from Port McNeill and Alert Bay.

"Spending seven months of the year out in the territory, you can really see that there is an impact – not only in our territory but in other territories," he said. "There's a great deal of concern for sure."

Volunteers from the Mamalilikulla were amongst those who planted 500 pink salmon in wild spaces for hungry bears to find in the region in the fall of 2019. The move put them at odds with some sectors of the provincial government.

Mamalilikulla Chief Richard Sumners says the government needs to come to the assistance of the bears.

"It's kind of a ticking clock here, we are working against the clock and hopefully we can remedy the situation for the bears and every wildlife (species) in the ocean and the land that depend on (salmon)," he said.

Sumners says his nation is undertaking some of their own projects to assist with the problem as well.

"This is our first year with salmon restoration. Our crews are actively out in the territory now doing remediation work along the river creek systems throughout our different territories," he said.

Smith says another contributing factor is the amount of man-made dumping that has occurred in the area over the years.

"Derelict boats within the territory that's been sitting there for years, poor logging practices that has happened in the past. We ran into nine 45-gallon drums of jet fuel that were left by heli-loggers," Smith said.