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Sports fishers reject restrictions on chinook

Mar 23 2012
A chinook salmon, along with a school of shad, pass through the viewing room at McNary Lock and Dam on the Columbia River, June 7, 2005 near Umatilla, Oregon. Fishermen in B.C. are worried about "draconian" restrictions on fishing for chinook salmon. 

A chinook salmon, along with a school of shad, pass through the viewing room at McNary Lock and Dam on the Columbia River, June 7, 2005 near Umatilla, Oregon. Fishermen in B.C. are worried about "draconian" restrictions on fishing for chinook salmon.

Photograph by: Jeff T. Green, Getty Images

Angry anglers gave Fisheries and Oceans representatives a rough ride Wednesday with raucous objections to any cuts to the summer chinook fishery in Juan de Fuca Strait.

About 400 people crowded into the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Langford to tell DFO they have already taken enough cuts and any further restrictions would cause the collapse of the southern Vancouver Island sports fishery.

A motion passed unanimously that the "Victoria Sports Fishing Advisory Board Committee will not agree to, or accept, any further restrictions on the recreational chinook fishery."

Fishers want DFO to show that it has met its own salmon allocation policy and that a recovery plan is in place that includes habitat restoration, sufficient water for the fish and a hatchery enhancement program.

Another motion demanded that DFO have a third-party review of stock assessment and harvest data.

Some figures being used to justify restrictions are more than a decade old and others are based on best-guesses, said Christopher Bos, chairman of the Victoria Sports Fishing Advisory Board Committee.

"If you put garbage into the model, you're going to get garbage out," Bos said. "It's all jiggery-pokery."

A third motion called for all DFO staff to be fired immediately.

Les Jantz, DFO area chief of resource management for the B.C. Interior, said the meeting was very emotional.

"To a lot of people, this is near and dear to their heart, and they feel as if they have been singled out as the sole group to take action, which is not the case," Jantz said.

DFO staff would have liked to have met again with committee members, but that was rejected, Jantz said.

"That is unfortunate, because I think there are some things we could work with," he said. "The bottom line is they say they won't take any more action to protect these stocks."

At the heart of the controversy are Fraser River chinook runs that are not doing well. Returns this year are expected to be extremely low and all sectors are being told to expect restrictions in an effort to get more fish back to the spawning grounds.

The chinook fishery in Juan de Fuca Strait catches mixed stocks, with some fish from abundant runs and others from the depleted runs.

DFO will come up with a plan in the next month after meeting with all sectors.

Jantz also met with First Nations from Vancouver Island and the mainland in Victoria on Thursday.

"First Nations are concerned about these stocks because they rely heavily on them for food fisheries," Jantz said. "I expect they will come back with some recommendations on how to conserve these fish."

If the stocks are not rebuilt now, they will not be there in the future, Jantz said.

Conservation and First Nations have priority in fisheries.

Ernie Crey, fisheries adviser to Sto: lo Tribal Council, said First Nations have already reduced their catch and are prepared to do more.

"It's time for sports fishery groups to join with us in saving these precious fish," he said.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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