At the recent Sport Fishing Advisory Board, Main Board meeting on April 16th in Richmond, DFO could not assure your SVIAC SFAB reps present that Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait recreational salmon fishery would not be closed in May, June and July this year. What a potential catastrophe that would be if there was a closure to salmon fishing!
SVIAC SFAB reps found out that some 30 Fraser First Nations and the Marine Conservation Caucus have sent letters to Fisheries Minister Tootoo and/or DFO, lobbying hard for the salmon fishery to be closed in the Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits.
While DFO staff could not rule out a closure, they indicated the minister in Ottawa would make that decision this year. They did, however, suggest a possible increase in restrictive regulations for all recreational anglers in the path of migrating Fraser Chinook salmon, both in the ocean and in the river as a compromise position. Their suggestion was around here to implement the slot restriction (Zone 1) regardless of abundance of Fraser Spring and Summer 5-2 Chinook. Elsewhere the Zone 1 restriction would apply regardless, which affects Fraser River anglers and even the sports fishers in the interior on the Thompson River.
Due to the predictions of a low Fraser Sockeye return this year and likely reduced First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial Sockeye fishing opportunity, Fraser First Nations want to harvest more Chinook. The extra Chinook would be for their FSC as an offset for the lack of Sockeye, regardless of conservation. Closing Victoria and area to salmon fishing in May, June and July and providing more Chinook to Fraser FN would be an extraordinary re-allocation NOT based on conservation. Any Chinook saved by closing our fishery would simply be caught in the river net fishery, no more would get to the spawning beds.
Needless to say there was considerable concern expressed to DFO by the SFAB Main Board reps. The reply to DFO was this is not acceptable. Clearly, the requests to close or inflict more restrictive regulations on the south island salmon angling community is not based in conservation. The Fraser FN want more Chinook and DFO seem to think our area’s recreational fishery can be offered as some kind of sacrificial lamb to appease others.
SVIAC have reseached the available data and see a preliminary 2016 prediction for adult Fraser Spring and Summer 5-2 Chinook to be at medium abundance levels (between 45,000 and 85,000). Therefore, we would expect Chinook to be managed in Zone 2 according to the current abundance-based management model. And the Pacific Salmon Commission abundance indicator suggests a total return of almost 250,000 Chinook to the Fraser. If the fish show up as predicted it would be absolutely unfair to force Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait salmon anglers to endure the severest regulationss.
It would set a dangerous precedent and the minister would ill-advised to approve this closure. If he does, this would essentially being laying down a declaration of war against the whole public recreational fishery in British Columbia. While we don’t think a closure will be implemented, we also really don’t want worse restrictions either.
To respond to this alarming situation SVIAC strongly recommends all its individual and corporate members write to Minister Tootoo in Ottawa and express their significant concern. SVIAC will contiunue to advocate strongly for your fishing interests at all levels of government.
“As president, I can assure our members that SVIAC will do everything possible to advocate for your fishing interests and lobby hard to stop further restrictions or a closure from being implemented this year.” stated Christopher Bos, the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition president, “Everyone who fishes recreationally for salmon in BC should write a letter to the fisheries minister as this could set such a bad precedent for all.”