Mike Berry, left, David Hadley, Steve Crevatin and Darren Brown, volunteers with the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society, place a female chinook salmon in a net to be taken to a hatchery as part of the 2016 brood stock capture on the Sooke River. (Kevin Laird/Sooke News Mirror)

Spring fishery closures mulled for south coast

Fewer fish are returning to rivers and more conservation needed, say feds

The federal government is eyeing further cuts to recreational and commercial fisheries on the West Coast over conservation concerns for the Fraser River chinook salmon.

In a letter to First Nations and fisheries stakeholders, Jeff Grout, the Fisheries Department regional resource manager for salmon, said fewer fish are returning to the Fraser River and more conservation measures are needed.

Thirteen B.C. chinook salmon populations are declining, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada reported late last year. Southern B.C. has 28 chinook populations. Only one, in the Thompson River, is stable. The condition of two populations is unknown.

In 2018, the number of spawning salmon declined substantially in the Fraser River, Grout said. In addition, the fish were smaller compared to other years, fewer females, and reduced fertility.

The Fisheries Department has floated two scenarios in its approach to managing Fraser River chinook this year.

Scenario A would result in a non-retention of chinook salmon in the recreational fishery from April 1 to July 31. Scenario B could see some chinook retention – up to two a day.

RELATED: Feds limit chinook fishery to help killer whale recovery

Last spring, the Fisheries Department announced a ban on harvesting any fin-fish from Otter Point in Sooke to East Point, near Port Renfrew, a stretch of approximately 50 kilometres extended from the shoreline to U.S. waters, to protect endangered southern resident killer whales.

A representative with the Fisheries Department said that move was to preserve the chinook salmon population, which makes up most of the whales’ diet and to decrease noise in the area.

The ban went into effect last June and lasted until Sept. 30.

The South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition recognizes the chinook conservation concern, said spokesman Chris Bos.

“We’re at a pivot point in attempts to maintain the fishery and address conservation,” he said. “We’re not trying to be greedy and catch all the fish.”

RELATED: West Coast urging DFO to consult more before shutting down sports fishery

For the last 15 years, the coalition has discussed conservation measures with the government.

The coalition says more focus is needed to bring the fish habitat back, money for it, and help the fish stock rebuild itself naturally.

“We also need to do something to protect the people who live on the coast, who rely on access to the ocean,” Bos said.

The South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition says millions of dollars are injected into the local economy by the recreational fishing industry and commercial fishermen.

Environmental groups continue to argue that far more needs to be done concerning ongoing threats to the whales and salmon.

“There’s a greater economic impact if we lose these fish entirely,” said Jeffery Young, senior science and policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation.

“We support the measures (the Fisheries Department), which largely stop chinook salmon fishing in marine areas along the south coast.”

The foundation acknowledges many factors that have contributed to the chinook salmon crisis, including habitat destruction, a warming and acidifying ocean, wildlife predation, and fishing.

The goal, though, must be to rebuild the stocks and that will take drastic action, which should include no fish zones, the foundation says.

“We do understand how important chinook is to the recreational fishery, but other opportunities are out there (such as fishing other species), and there’s really no justification on a highly depleted and endangered stocks,” Young said.

Politician and fishing advocate Mike Hicks said whatever approach the Fisheries Department takes, either Option A or B, will be devastating to the local recreational fishery.

“This is the most aggressive regulation that’s ever suggested in the history of recreational and commercial fishing on the coast,” he said, conceding there isn’t enough chinook salmon in local waters.

Hicks suggested a need to curtail fishing, but added more needs to be done to produce salmon through improved habitation and more hatcheries.

Hicks is a proponent in the construction of a $1-million hatchery that’s expected to be running by next fall in Sooke. He said projects such as this will improve the number of salmon that make it safely to the ocean and return four years later.

He also favours reducing the number of seals in river estuaries.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation estimates harbour seals are eating 40 per cent of the salmon fry and smolts coming out of local rivers and streams.

“We should be harvesting pinnipeds in the river estuaries – not out in the ocean – but not a massive cull. It should be done by First Nations for food and ceremonial purposes.”

•••

The Fisheries Department is considering closures for the recreational chinook salmon fishery from April 1 to July 31. The following areas could be affected:

• Gabriola Island to Port Hardy

• Mayne Island to Bonilla Point

• Swiftsure Bank to Cape Scott

• Fraser River (tidal and non-tidal)

There is also a plan floated for a reduction for the commercial fishery in the West Coast troll area (Area G) and North Coast troll area (Area F)



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Victoria council denies VicPD coverage for Employer’s Health Tax

Several cuts to police costs have dropped the proposed municipal tax from 4.3 to 3.9 per cent

VicPD officer saves man overdosing on opioids

The man was found lying on the sidewalk early Thursday morning

Protective human chain to form around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders invited to stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

UVic hosts forum on state of democracy with scholars from around the globe

Forum takes places Friday in Ceremonial Hall in First Peoples House at the University of Victoria

New role created to mediate on-site harassment for construction employers

Across the province Builders Code Advisors will work to retain more employees

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Second case of measles reported in the B.C. Interior

Case is connected to an earlier measles case in 100 Mile House

Police watchdog investigating after man falls out third-storey window in Vancouver

The man fell to the ground and was taken to hospital with serious injuries

Cheetahs will not prosper in Creston: Permit rejected for two big cats

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

GM announces jobs, electric vehicle after Trump criticism

The company says it will spend $300 million at its plant in Orion Township

Trucker who caused Broncos crash likely to be deported: lawyer

The Crown has asked that Sidhu serve 10 years in prison

China chemical plant blast kills 47, injures hundreds more

This is one of China’s worst industrial accidents in recent years

Most Read