On March 29 (with a clarification follow up on March 30), Fisheries and Oceans Canada released their notice to inform recreational anglers that as of April 1 (coinciding with the season’s license), the same measures will be place as last April … for now. Minutes later, social media blew up. While most people missed the word “interim,” any DFO notice that contains the words “non-retention” and “closed to all fishing activity” was destined to set off alarm bells.
An Interim 2021 Recreational Fishing Announcement
“Wait … interim? What exactly does that mean? Why are the regulations the same as last year for the start of the season? Does this mean the entire year will be the same as 2020?” These were the questions that came in by phone and email to Island Fisherman.
Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP)
First, let’s talk about the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) and its cycle. Through consultation with First Nations and the Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB), a management plan is made in public draft, and after a public vetting period is complete, an actual plan is implemented which details a course of action. Recommendations from the SFAB are based on the DFO’s own science. While the 2020-2021 season has been under incredible scrutiny for non-science-based decisions concerning Chinook retention, the hope is always that decisions will not be motivated by politics but rather grounded and informed by science with consideration for logical trade-offs assessing risk against social and economic benefit. Longtime industry professionals publicly stated that wasn’t the case with the 2019 regulations, which continued through 2020. There were rallies, there were protests, there were jobs lost and businesses closed. For almost two years, the flag of
“science-informed decision-making” has been raised to promote a DFO science-based Mark Select Fishery (MSF). It’s a critical time for the industry, and it’s no wonder there is tremendous concern about 2021-2022 season and any announcement from the DFO.
However, there are good reasons not to push the panic button just yet. The current IFMP expires May 31, 2021, as the cycle was June 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021. When the DFO announced that they’d be carrying over the measures from last year, no matter how upsetting or how the regulations were influenced, the April “interim” regulations shouldn’t come as a surprise, as this was the intention in the IFMP.
The 2021-2022 Season Regulations
There is no undermining the amount of concern and anxiety, especially for stakeholders like guides, resorts, lodges, and all spinoff economics that rely on the recreational fishery. It’s a $1.1 billion-dollar industry that supports more than 9,000 jobs in BC. The SFAB and the SFI have shown and proposed a DFO science-based approach that clearly minimizes risks to stocks of concern but also opens the fishery.
While we all wait with bated breath, and are cautiously optimistic, the question in this critical make-or-break year is: Will the Fisheries Minister follow the science, or will she succumb to politics?
To review the notices, click the links below: