There has been much speculation about what the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will announce for the 2020-2021 sport fishing season in British Columbia. While the DFO works through its process of consultation with First Nations and the Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB), one only needs to look to the Pacific Region Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021 that’s publicly available in draft. Further updates can be tracked on the summary page. While we all have to wait for a final decision in a public announcement by the DFO, this is what’s being discussed.
While the document takes a deep dive over the course of 544 pages, page 29 indicates the DFO’s intention to implement the 2019 measures as of April 1, 2020 until they are able to develop a 2020 plan:
FRASER RIVER CHINOOK–CONSERVATION MEASURES
On April 16, 2019 the Government of Canada announced new fisheries management measures to conserve Fraser River Chinook (see news release: https://www.canada.ca/en/fisheries-oceans/news/2019/04/government-of-canada-takes-action-to-address-fraser-river-chinook-decline.html). Management measures to address conservation concerns for Fraser Chinook continue to be required in 2020 and will likely be required for several years.
Given the early run timing of Fraser Chinook, the Department plans to implement management measures that were announced for the 2019 season beginning April 1st, 2020 as interim measures to provide time for a technical review of the 2019 fishery management measures and completion of consultations on possible adjustments to these management measures. The Department plans to meet with First Nations and established advisory groups during consultations in March and April to discuss potential adjustments to management measures, evaluate outcomes and document support for alternative management measures to inform decision making. Interim measures announced April 1st, 2020, will be in place until a decision is made surrounding future measures expected to be in effect June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021.
As a Sport Fisherman, What Can You Do?
First, don’t panic. Getting angry about anything, especially on social media, will always be unproductive. Instead, try the following:
Today, anglers have access to more information than they may realize. It only takes a few moments to educate yourself on alternative ways of fishery management other than non-retention. Look to the industry and the people that are the closest to it. For instance, the non-profit Sport Fishing Institute of BC (SFI) has produced very good background information specifically for this purpose. You can also support their efforts here. Again, this is a non-profit organization that’s working for you, the sport fisherman.
Participate in Data Collection
Download the FishingBC Sports Fishing App on your smartphone so you can participate in catch data collection. The more data that the sport fishing community can create, the better the management decisions can be made.
For fisherman that do retain hatchery fish in retention areas, it’s very important to turn in the hatchery heads to authorized depots. The Coded Wire Tag (CWT) data is critically important to establish real world data of which stocks are being caught, where, and when. With real data, comes good management decisions.
Attend Your Area’s Local SFAC/SFAB Meetings and Vote
If you are unfamiliar with the SFAB process and how it engages the DFO, please read this article. These are public meetings where recommendations to the DFO are voted on, for and by sport fishermen of that area. If you want someone else to make the decisions for you, then don’t go. However, the more people that come to these meetings, the more the DFO will see that the sport/recreational fishing community has a voice. This is exactly how you can effect change.
What Is the SFAB Doing Right Now?
The SFAB is working collaboratively with DFO to review alternative Chinook management measures such as Marked Select Fishery (MSF) options and Data Supported Fishery (DSF) opportunities.
MSF options promote retention on hatchery marked fish. DSF opportunities promote fishing opportunities in specific places during times when Chinook Stocks of Concern, such as Fraser River Chinook salmon, are not present.
Now that you know how the decisions come to be, who is in charge making the decisions, and what’s currently in play, what are you going to do?
Please use the comment field below this article to share how you are working to ensure the best future for the sport fishery, and remember that this is a family-friendly resource.