Recreational anglers protested outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) office in Vancouver July 6 demanding a meaningful recovery plan for early Fraser River Chinook stocks.
The Public Fishery Alliance (PFA), who organized the demonstration, said the issues affecting the endangered runs have been known for more than 15 years — habitat degradation, climate change, seal predation, pollution and illegal netting — but DFO has failed to produce a strategic plan to address them.
Instead, the group said blanket closures as seen in the last two years place unfair burdens on the sport fishing sector, and will fail the Chinook as they have failed other species, including early Stuart sockeye, Thompson Coho and Steelhead.
Last month, due to a high prevalence of endangered Chinook, DFO banned retention in most areas of southern B.C. until July 15, and not until Aug. 1 in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Southern Strait of Georgia. Similar measures were in place last year.
PFA argued the current abundance of hatchery Chinook in southern B.C. can provide a sustainable public fishery, without putting undue risk on these wild stocks of concern.
In an open letter to Canada’s fisheries minister, prominent FAR member Dave Brown called on DFO to adopt recommendations put forth by the Sport Fish Advisory Board to open selective fisheries for hatchery Chinook in areas that have less than one-per cent encounter rate with stocks of concern.
“This would have created retention opportunities for the many healthy Chinook salmon stocks that are in the South Coast waters,” he wrote. “It would have protected critical socio and economic opportunities for all Canadians. Now you have decided that one per cent still was not acceptable … I ask you and your department if a proposal that was built on DFO’s own science and data is not acceptable at one-per cent encounter rate, then what is?”
Before their release into the wild, 10 per cent of hatchery Chinook are marked by the removal the adipose fin.
FAR wants DFO to start marking 100 per cent of the fish to allow for a sustainable selective fishery of these hatchery Chinook.
At the time of posting, calls to the DFO for comment were not returned.
The department has previously said abundant stocks are known to mix in with threatened populations. Extreme conservation decisions are necessary to keep the stocks of concern numbers as high as possible.