July 15 can’t come fast enough. And though not all areas will be open for Chinook retention, a good number will be—that is if you trust the word of this government’s DFO Minister. Frankly, I don’t, and judging by the letters and calls I’ve received, neither do many of our readers.
I wrote my own letter to Minister Wilkinson, and I encouraged many people to do so. I was there for the consultation meetings in Port Alberni for the whale discussions. I was there in Sooke. I watched people beg to be listened to, and people passionately challenge the proposals with facts. I watched this government blindside the consultation process with restrictions that weren’t even discussed. I’ve watched them make decisions based on federal politics and pressure from non-governmental organizations. I’ve seen this administration force restrictions that are completely nonsensical and portray them as “science-based decisions.” Tell me again how fishing outside the 1-mile boundary for hatchery Chinook endangers Fraser River returns? Tell me again how area restrictions for personal watercraft are going to help the whales but the fleet of new oil tankers (from the current 5 to a likely 34) for the pipeline are not a problem? I watched them throw the economies of our small towns and the families who live and work in them not under the bus but … away.
I’ve kept emotions out of this magazine and stuck to reporting the developments on our website for those who wanted to keep up with the news. I encouraged catch & release, and did it myself. We posted an easy chart-plotter download for people fishing on the west coast, to keep them in legal boundary. The DFO’s announcement included only a list of GPS waypoints that was too confusing for the average fisherman.
I believe that shaking your fist at the sky isn’t going to change the weather. So rather than staying in from the rain and complaining about it, I put on a raincoat and went outside, and encouraged others to as well. Fishing Vancouver Island is our heritage, and no one is going to take that away from us.
Let me share with you what I’ve learned. It’s time for a change. And yes, you can vote for that change when you go to the polls in October. To quote Rob Alcock’s bold statement and vigilant educational campaign, “We Won’t Forget.” #wewontforget
But before you grab your pitchforks and torches, hear me out on this, too.
We are sport fishermen. We just want to enjoy a relaxing and exciting adventure on the ocean and take our one or two fish home for a wonderful dinner. As a community, we don’t have a strong history of wanting to be organized and lobby for our rights. We are “easy pickings” for a Government to say to lobbyists that they did something and win the public vote—even if what they did was incredibly wrong. That stops now. Change is necessary, and we need to do it with more science and more involvement. Bill Shaw’s suggestion that we need an ombudsman to represent BC in Ottawa holds a lot of weight, too. But you and I, more than ever, will have to document as much scientific fact as possible. Return your wire-coded heads—every single one. Keep records of your catch. We will have more on that in the August issue—don’t miss it. And learn about inspiring efforts such as the “Chinook and Coho Diet Study” on page 22 of the July 2019 issue.
I don’t think that anyone reading this magazine believes that blanket restrictions are going to do more good than dealing with the production side of our fishery (and yes, the predation). Pat Ahern, president of the West Coast Fishing Guide Association, boils it down to:
- The public fishery is an economic development engine that needs to be treated as if it was a mutual fund. Invest and grow. The wild salmon policy thus far has been an impediment.
- We need to invest in mark selective fisheries and bring all the stakeholders into roundtable processes so we can more effectively grow those opportunities and bring meaningful reconciliation with First Nations by having them fully vested into the public fishery.
- We need clearly defined goals to keep the limited resources government has to spend on Chinook rebuilding laser- focused on smart objectives/outcomes, and away from the fluff we are hearing from the government and DFO.
You may not have personal spare time to offer to hatcheries on Vancouver Island, but a little pocket change is always welcome. Perhaps offer up one of those social media fundraising programs for your birthday to a hatchery of your choice? To quote Kyle McKenzie, who organizes the Spring Reeling Salmon Derby, “we need boots on the ground.” And don’t let non-retention stop you from enjoying time on the water—that’s just running from the rain. It’s a heck of a lot of fun, and guides will attest there’s something special about seeing a look on guests’ faces when a big fish swims away—it’s magic.
With all that out of the way, how about we just go fishing? See you out there.