At the end of September, response letters from DFO (Fisheries Minister Jordan and Pacific RDG Rebecca Reid) have emerged that, in our opinion, are a clear indication of just how little our current federal government in Ottawa feel about the Public Salmon Fishery in British Columbia. The Sport Fishing Advisory Board and SVIAC both received responses, as we are sure other groups from the West Coast angling community did too.
Firstly, it is astonishing to us that a SVIAC letter written in good faith and sent the Fisheries Minister on March 12, requesting urgent action by the federal government, would get a reply on September 28. That is an insulting 200-day or 6 month delay in sending a response. With the amount of support staff in the minister’s office and regardless of the Corona Virus, any Canadian individual writing to the federal government should receive a reply sooner on any matter, let alone one addressing an urgent matter from a stakeholder organization.
The full SVIAC March 12, 2020 letter and DFO Minister Jordan’s September 28, 2020 reply, 2020 are available at the following links:
Regarding Marked Selective Fisheries (MSF) for salmon, the topic raised in the letters from the SFAB and SVIAC, our government is not giving us an outright no, but it certainly isn’t an enthusiastic yes let’s do it immediately either! The term “slow walking” seems more apt under the circumstance. (Dictionary: to slow walk is to perform a task slowly on purpose so as to drag out the time taken, usually in order to delay what the subject believes will occur next). The opportunity to retain abundant USA-origin hatchery fin-clipped Chinook this past March and April, when there were NO stocks of concern present, was lost unnecessarily, depriving the public of viable fishing opportunities. And the survival of the Public Chinook Fishery around South Vancouver Island is clearly in danger of collapse with the current policies being implemented by Ottawa. Selective Marked Fishery is a viable solution and needs implementing immediately. Even Premier John Horgan has made valiant efforts to inspire the Federal Liberal Government to take action by advocating for the recovery of wild salmon, supporting our public salmon fisheries and promoting salmon enhancement for the benefit of all British Columbians. Yet some how, as government often does, Ottawa has managed to turn a positive opportunity into a drawn out bureaucratic exercise of pure frustration for the very Canadians they serve.
The Minister’s response letter is a classic example. As usual, you can hear the sad violin music playing in your head as you read the explanations why (with tongue in cheek) –
– we must conserve these stocks of concern in the ocean and be cautious about mixed stock Marked Selective Fisheries as they impact the weaker stocks (even though all wild fish must be released in the Public Fishery and, at the same time, DFO allow directed gill net fisheries for these very same stocks of concern on the Fraser River. And let’s not forget that DFO can not seem to keep ahead of the rampant unlawful net fishing poachers who, by many accounts, kill thousands upon thousands of Chinook annually to be sold off for illegal profit).
– We can’t compromise our antiquated stock assessment system for some new, cutting edge technology (there seems to be a cadre of DFOers who are clinging to their Coded Wire Tagging with an irrational zealous intolerance for change)
– DFO haven’t got two brass farthings spare to pay for all the extra costs (HA! you have to laugh when DFO play the “no money” violin music as government happily shovels billions and billions of taxpayers money off the back of the truck to their pet woke causes de jour).
– Flooding the ocean with millions and millions of hatchery fish will starve the last few remaining wild salmon and interaction between hatchery and wild fish is too risky and just bad …
– we must study MSF for at least another decade (even though DFO have released hundreds of millions of hatchery salmon for more than forty years, its now the time to study the inaction – phew, gimme a break!!)
The cynicism and sarcasm of the author around this article are clear. We, the angling community of South Vancouver Island, have heard all this guff before, a thousand times. In truth, it is time someone had the stones to stand up and say the truth out loud. DFO have completely dropped the ball with Fraser Stream-Type Chinook stocks of concern. It is clear and historically proven that increasing fishing restrictions alone as a quasi recovery plan, which is essentially the departments sole strategy for the past 15 years with Fraser Chinook, is a loser’s game. Yet, Minister after Minister sees it as a cheap solution to address a problem. The analogy is giving the patient an aspirin for their headache as their leg drops off due to Gangrene. If the patient was taken to hospital and given proper treatment right out of the gate, they wouldn’t need their leg amputated now! Simply put, it kicks the can down the road.
The overwhelming majority of the angling community care deeply about our wild Pacific salmon resource and we wholly recognize it may take decades for Fraser River Chinook that are in real trouble to actually recover, if ever at all. We understand the federal government is following a prime minister-ordered mandate to reconcile with the Indigenous people of Canada and that the health and protection of the environment is top of list too. Yet, our important Public salmon fishery is in jeopardy of collapse and stands on the brink of the cliff. Ottawa doesn’t have to wreak havoc and hardship on thousands of honest hard-working Canadians while hell-bent on achieving their other objectives. We, the angling community, are all Canadians too and we just want fair treatment.
We don’t want to kill wild fish that are threatened or endangered, but please, please keep our fishery alive, all be it on life support while the Fraser Chinook recovery is implemented. The Salmon Enhancement Program needs Minister Jordan to order all hatchery Coho and Chinook produced in Canada to be identifiably marked (adipose fin-clipped). Let the Public salmon fishery keep the marked hatchery Chinook, which are raised for fisheries, when their abundance is high and any harm to struggling wild salmon in that area is infinitesimal. And equally, let the Public fishery catch and keep Chinook in areas and at times where abundant stocks are present and wild stocks of concern are historically not present or very rare. It’s just that simple!