Today, the DFO held a press briefing to announce what they billed as “Additional Fisheries Management Measures for Fraser River Chinook stocks, following the recent landslide near Big Bar, north of Lillooet, BC.”
For those sport fishermen planning on fishing the areas opening for retention starting July 15, the announcement boils down to one thing, and one thing only: non-retention of Chinook over 80 cm both wild and hatchery. This measure is to be reviewed again on July 31.
When Island Fisherman asked, “Why are hatchery Chinook also being limited to the slot,” the DFO replied that hatchery Chinook go up the Fraser. We asked for data to support that assertion, at which time, the DFO moved on to other questions and left that query unanswered.
Island Fisherman spoke with several experts, all of whom concluded that applying a slot limit to hatchery Chinook does not impact the Chinook stocks of concern in a measurable capacity, and that the announcement of further restriction on hatchery retention is made for purely for a public show of action. The consensus is that not enough is being done to address the slide itself, which is preventing fish from getting to the spawning grounds.
“As I understand it, the slide is as serious as people say, and there are a substantial number of Chinooks being held back,” says Sport Fishing Advisory Board Chair 17 Deryk Krefting. “It’s imperative the DFO deals with the slide itself—getting the fish through the blockage ASAP, as sockeye are now starting to migrate and will also be at risk. However, the minister should not be restricting hatchery-marked Chinook in all marine areas as they play no role in the matter on the Fraser River Chinooks whatsoever.”
Pat Ahearn, president of the West Coast Fishing Guide Association, agrees.
“The West Coast Fishing Guides Association supports strong measures to address mitigation of the physical barrier caused by the Fraser rockslide which is blocking migration of salmon stocks of concern to upper Fraser watersheds,” he says. “We understand from reports coming from the field that larger Chinook have been observed successfully ascending past the barrier, and as such, these larger Chinook may hold special significance in preserving this important stock. We support plans to release wild, unmarked, over-80cm Chinook from July 15 to 30, in an effort to pass these larger fish through fisheries during the July period where these stocks pass through marine area fisheries.
“Our membership is, however, sadly disappointed in the decision to also include marked hatchery Chinook over 80 cm, as all but one hatchery facility in the upper Fraser River has been closed, and produces less than 1 million out-migrant smolts,” he continues. “Recreational fishers were eagerly anticipating a return to fishing opportunities on July 15, and our members have experienced significant economic impacts from the earlier decision to impose a non-retention fishery. Hatchery-marked selective fisheries would pose limited-to-no impact to wild Fraser Chinook recovery.”