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Island anglers reel in concerns at Town Hall aimed to combat salmon closures

Many opportunities to catch chinook salmon in southern B.C. lost, say anglers
The Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition hosts a town hall meeting on Feb. 27 to discuss salmon fishing regulations. (Unsplash)

A town hall meeting on Feb. 27 aims to reel in as many salmon anglers as possible to emphasize the concerns of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition regarding salmon habitats.

“Many opportunities to catch chinook salmon in southern British Columbia are lost for no good reason, and salmon anglers are growing increasingly frustrated with the current management of our salmon fisheries,” said Chris Bos, president of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Association.

“The problematic patchwork of chinook salmon closures and frequently changing complex regulations impede everyday Canadians who love to fish from accessing abundant stocks, especially those of hatchery origin.”

Although Bos says anglers are known for their keen support of conservation, including doing their part in recovering endangered southern resident killer whales and certain struggling Fraser chinook stocks, SVIAC members believe the current “highly restrictive” complex regulations and closures are excessive.

“We also are of the opinion that, even though there is a mandate under the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative to do so, the move to mass mark hatchery chinook and open up opportunities to catch abundant hatchery chinook - marked selective fishing - is unnecessarily slow,” he said.

Bos said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has adopted static areas that are “closed to salmon fishing” for months and months, which the SVIAC believes are based on suspect data and are unproven in their benefit.

“This has put great hardship onto communities like Port Renfrew, which rely on access to fish as part of their tourist economy,” he said. “Our sport fishing advisory board has strongly recommended that distance-based avoidance protocols be requisite for all boaters, and no closed areas imposed upon anglers, and we are disappointed that our recommendations have not been adopted.”

Bos said South Vancouver Island waters have catchable, abundant hatchery-origin chinook salmon from Washington State from October through to May. In May 2023, anglers in the Victoria and Oak Bay waters were granted the opportunity to retain one hatchery chinook, an improvement following the total closures imposed in 2019.

“What is peculiar is this opportunity was only for May when both April and May are perfectly suited to allow these viable fisheries, and the footprint did not extend to the Sooke area where fish stock composition is identical,” Bos said. “This seems like a failure of the department’s fisheries management.”

The South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition is a non-profit advocacy group focused on being the voice of local anglers in the community.

“We’re promoting a sustainable sports fishery and fair restrictions,” said board member Gerry Morrison. “Our major concern is that if the (federal) government has its way, we would be shut down like the east coast fisheries.”

The coalition, founded in 2012 and with more than 100 members, also serves as stewards of the Sooke Chinook Salmon Restoration program, which has fed and released 4.2 million hatchery chinook salmon into the Sooke Basin in the past seven years.

The town hall occurs at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, at the Four Points Sheraton at 829 McCallum Rd. in Langford.

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