South Island salmon anglers are carrying a huge conservation load and cannot bear any more restrictions, a Capital Regional District director told Terry Beech, parliamentary secretary to Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, last week.
A special CRD committee of the whole meeting was a rare chance for local officials to meet face-to-face with a federal politician on marine and fisheries issues.
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks told Beech, Liberal MP for Burnaby North Seymour, that more needs to done to ease the fisheries regulation burden on the area.
“The current restriction of the non-retention of a mature wild stock Chinook until July 15 has decimated the local sport fishing industry and perhaps more importantly ruined the recreational angling opportunity of our residents that has been enjoyed for generations,” Hicks said.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada puts restrictions in place in a number of fisheries along the chinook’s migration route to try to conserve those returning to the river in the spring and summer. They vary by area.
DFO closed the area from Cadboro Point to Sheringham Point – 130 kilometres from the Fraser River – last summer, a change which Hicks said local anglers weren’t consulted.
“Although this closure was questionable as a conservation measure it allowed the residents and guides to maintain an opportunity to fish for large chinook,” Hicks said, adding DFO extended the closure an addition 30 kilometres to Sombrio Point which resulted in a closure for chinook fishing until July 15.
Hicks would like to see the boundary for fishing regulations be re-established at Sheringham Point, west of Sooke.
“This relatively small boundary alteration would continue to achieve the conservation goals of DFO but would give local anglers and industry the opportunity to survive during these times of low abundance,” Hicks said.
Hicks asked Beech for a meeting with DFO’s Pacific Regional Director Andrew Thomson.
Beech told directors his objective for the meeting was to listen.
He said DFO is looking at ways to improve the process.
“We do our best to make hard decisions with available science with the full understanding of the difficulties these decisions put on coastal communities,” Beech said.
“I’m not against making difficult decisions but don’t want to cause unnecessary hardship when it’s not warranted.”