Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl has introduced a Private Members’ Bill that, if adopted, would provide more opportunities for selective fisheries in the Chilliwack/Hope region and across the country.
Strahl said the Selective Fisheries Act (Bill C-297) would provide Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Bernadette Jordan, with new tools to protect vulnerable wild fish stocks on the Fraser River. At the same time, selective fisheries would allow for the targeting of specific species of fish that have strong stocks.
The bill was seconded by Brad Vis, MP for the riding of Mission/Matsqui/Fraser Canyon.
“Everyone agrees that vulnerable salmon stocks need to be protected and that conservation is the number one priority, but it is possible to protect certain species with low numbers and allow selective fisheries for plentiful species at the same time,” Strahl explained. “Every time the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans completely shuts down all recreational fisheries on the Fraser River to protect a specific species of vulnerable salmon, there is a significant negative impact on the local economy and anglers are deprived of the opportunity to put their lines in the water.”
Advocates for the public fishery have long railed against blanket closures on the Fraser River and argued in favour of many elements of Strahl’s proposal.
“I don’t think closing any fishery is good for any user group,” said Dean Werk, owner of Great River Fishing Adventures and a member of the Fraser Valley Salmon Society, at a recent meeting with Conservative MPs Ed Fast and Bob Zimmer. “Looking for solutions and working together gives us the opportunities.”
Werk and others have previously called for mass marking of hatchery fish. Clipping their adipose fins would help B.C. harmonize its fishing rules with the states of Washington and Oregon. Strahl’s bill would allow fishers to target and retain a certain number of hatchery-raised fish, while practicing catch-and-release with wild salmon.
“Hatchery fish continue to play an important role in maintaining a healthy fishery, and increasing the number of marked fish increases the opportunity for anglers to retain fish for their own use,” Strahl noted. “This is something that recreational fishing groups have been demanding for a long time. The Minister would be able to increase the number of hatchery fish that have their adipose fins clipped using the powers proposed in my bill.”
Strahl added that constitutionally protected Indigenous fisheries for food, social, and ceremonial purposes would maintain their priority and not be impacted by this bill.
“Local anglers are understandably frustrated whenever recreational fishing in the Fraser River is completely shut down, even as healthy stocks of salmon swim by,” he said. “It’s time for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to be given the power to establish selective fisheries, to provide a fair and equitable path forward for recreational fishing. I’m calling on all Members of Parliament to support my Bill and support responsible selective fishing opportunities on the Fraser River and across Canada.”