I just received an email containing a briefing note, “Recommendations for Restoring Southern British Columbia’s Public Chinook Fishery“, prepared by a group of southern Vancouver Island anglers and others who are associated with or are interested in the future of the public fishery. It’s titled, “Recommendations for Restoring Southern British Columbia’s Public Chinook Fishery”. I’ve gone over it and I think it is an important read for every angler, fishing business owner, or those people who are interested in putting weak Fraser River Chinook stocks on the road to recovery. Its contents also provide a sensible, and simple roadmap for preserving the opportunity to angle for Chinook through these very difficult times, while allowing the public fishery infrastructure to avoid potential collapse. The document can be accessed by clicking here, or clicking the icon at the end of this article.
Tom Davis, retired Victoria tackle manufacturer and long time advocate for recreational angling, is the contact person for this group and document. I called Tom to find out more about it: who contributed to it, why they pulled together to do it, and what they see as solutions to the mess we are currently dealing with? Here are his answers to my questions.
Joel Unickow: Who participated in this group and why?
Tom Davis: Let’s take that the other way around. Many of us have been involved in this never-ending struggle with the DFO and successive federal governments of both parties for decades. We are fed up with how the resource has withered on the vine during their watch while overseeing the destruction of west coast salmon fisheries. Apparently, now it’s the public fishery’s turn and we intend to do everything we can to stop that from happening. The group is not aligned with any other organization or advisory group. It’s just grass roots. It’s made up of diverse interests and backgrounds: anglers, fishing organizations, angling business interests, a local First Nation group, hatchery technicians, enhancement and restoration volunteers, and retired DFO and Provincial biologists. Collectively, they represent an impressive source of knowledge and practical experience in working with the salmon resource.
Joel Unickow: What is the purpose of the briefing note?
Tom Davis: It started out simple. We just wanted to prepare a document that laid out the history and detailed the crushing effects Minister Wilkinson’s Chinook non-retention policy after two months of implementation then forward it to the main federal parties. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own and we thought there was value in giving it wide distribution. The reason is this—people are angry, businesses are hurting, there is frustration, and in some cases real financial pain. The effects are far more severe than DFO anticipated in spite of being warned ahead of time that this was going to happen.
I am in touch with businesses regularly, and it’s really tough right now. I just got an email from a local small operator, “I’ve cut my staff in half, I’ve only got 1 charter for July when normally I’m full. I haven’t taken a pay check in two months, and I’m digging into my savings to stay afloat.” Joel, this didn’t have to happen and it’s not just about the businesses. Anglers are having their access to previously open fishing waters, or access to salmon removed without their input, and for reasons that may not produce the results that we are looking for. There are alternatives for Chinook and whale recovery that will work without massive disruption but unfortunately, the current Minister has shown a deaf ear to that advice.
Joel Unickow: What are the solutions and what can anglers & others do to help?
Aside from sending the brief to the politicians, we really need the angling communities support on this. So we’re asking anglers, or anyone for that matter, to use this document as a roadmap or blueprint. Talk to your local candidates, send emails to current MP’s, the DFO Minister, even the PM. Tell them we need help out here. Tell them that the current policy has the potential to kill the public fishery, or cripple it so badly it will take years to recover.
We’ve identified 3 areas that are key to turning this around:
Immediately move to a mark selective fishery during the periods when weak Fraser River Chinook stocks are in the fishing areas.
Begin to mark Canadian hatchery Chinook and coho at much higher rates. Currently it’s only 10%; the US marks at almost 100%.
Focus an ‘all tools in the box’ recovery effort for weak Fraser River stocks. This includes new hatchery technologies, restoration, and this is very important—beef up protections for critical habitats that have not yet been compromised. If we do this, we can restore salmon and save the fishery.
It should be a no-brainer. Instead, we got a public fishery destroying mess.
Finally, I’d suggest every one of your readers to got to download the brief. Copy it if they can, and then re-distribute it to their friends and associates with a note that says we support this, we are going to get involved and we want you to do the same. Joel, thanks for helping us with this.