North Island – Powell River MP Rachel Blaney says she hopes Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson takes the time to really listen to those who would be affected by a possible closure of the chinook salmon fishery this summer before making a final decision.
The federal government is looking at the possibility of restricting the retention of chinook to zero from April 1 to July 31, according to the proposal sent out last month, which local fishermen say would have an “enormously negative impact” on the tourism industry in the region.
In Blaney’s appeal to Minister Wilkinson, which was sent in the form of official House of Commons internal mail, she says that there is no better source of information on the problem of salmon conservation than the locals who have made it part of their history and heritage for as far back as anyone can remember – and then some.
“My riding includes 11 municipalities and more than 20 Indigenous communities,” Blaney writes. “For each and every one of them wild salmon are a key part of their economy, their history, their food security, their recreation, and their culture. I don’t believe there is anywhere in the world where the people are more concerned or more passionate about the well-being of salmon stocks.”
Local long-time fishing guide, member of various advisory committees – as well as a 20-year member of the Canadian delegation to the Pacific Salmon Treaty Process – Jeremy Maynard, who presented to Campbell River city council recently asking for a letter of support for the fishery to remain open, says the major factor in salmon returns declining is the damage being done to their upstream habitat, not what happens once they reach open water.
Blaney echoes that sentiment in her letter saying there need to be “drastic measures” taken to rebuild and restore salmon habitat, encouraging Minister Wilkinson to take into account the “wide range of impassioned views on the cause of salmon declines, and how best to address them. It is a complex problem that requires a complex response.”
“I implore you and your Ministry to be thorough in your consultation and to consider the wisdom and experience of the communities who live on these waters: the First Nations, the fisherman, the guides, the biologists, the streamkeepers,” Blaney writes. “A meaningful solution that produces the result that we all want will require the collaboration of all of these groups, as well as the Province who have jurisdiction over much of the land surrounding spawning streams. A solution that doesn’t meet that threshold will only harm and divide coastal communities, and likely fail in its goal of protecting and rebuilding the salmon population.”
No word yet on when the ministry is expected to make a decision on the chinook fishery, but it was officially accepting feedback on the two proposals until the end of February.