After unnecessarily leaving British Columbia’s fishing families and coastal communities waiting an extra six weeks to make a decision, Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan has once again announced restrictive Chinook salmon regulations for most of the spring and summer public fishing season.
This decision was made despite the angling industry’s economic contributions to both British Columbia and Canada, as well as the clear science that supports openings for some Chinook salmon public fisheries in key regions.
Over the past year in my role as Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Outdoor Caucus, I have met with many experts in BC’s fishing community who are gravely concerned that if political considerations continue to outweigh sound science, the impact on the angling industry, and the family livelihoods it sustains, will be devastating.
With this decision, the Minister has once again refused to listen to these concerns, instead putting politics ahead of science.
Many Chinook salmon stocks in BC rivers are strong or stable. There are also promising solutions out there that can help protect wild salmon stocks and support our public fishery. This includes having a mark selective fishery that would allow for the retention of easily identified adipose fin-clipped hatchery fish, while avoiding stocks of concern.
British Columbia’s hatcheries produce approximately 40 million Chinook each year. When added to the 70 million fin-clipped hatchery Chinook released in Washington State, this could make millions of Chinook available to be safely harvested by the public without impacting our wild salmon. These additional hatchery Chinook can help support the public fishery, our families, and species like southern resident killer whales that rely on salmon for food.
I was honoured to be one of 25 British Columbian MPs from across party lines to sign a letter calling on the Minister to support mark selective Chinook fisheries as a way to support restoration and conservation of at-risk populations, while also ensuring access to the public fishery.
The Province of British Columbia also sent a letter to the Minister encouraging her to implement mark selective fishing as recommended by the Sport Fishing Advisory Board for this fishing season. The letter goes on to ask that DFO “be flexible in its management approaches to not only conserve and protect stocks of concern but also facilitate limited and ‘safe’ harvest opportunities on abundant stocks where locally supportable”.
It seems both letters have fallen on deaf ears.
Our nation’s anglers are conservationists at heart. They understand that sustainability and respect for the environment does not preclude the enjoyment of nature. I strongly believe that we should be working with these experts, learning from their experiences and expertise, and using this knowledge when it comes to making decisions regarding access to our public fishery.
BC’s fishing families needed a lifeline. Shamefully, the Minister has turned her back on them once again.