Natasha Girard fishing with her Dad and Sister on Friday in Sooke landed three chinook salmon. (Ron Neitsch photo)

Public’s voice muted on future of fishing

If we want to have chinook salmon and killer whales around for future generations, it will require leadership and tough decisions from the federal government. No one is denying that.

But how the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has gone about placing restrictions on those ocean species, and hint more are likely to come is a head scratcher.

Earlier this year, the DFO shut down salmon and recreational fishing for the summer in key feeding grounds for killer whales.

The closures, which took effect last month, apply to parts of the southern Gulf Islands, portions of Juan de Fuca Strait, and areas around the mouth of the Fraser River.

Now, the DFO has announced it wants feedback on another plan that could potentially close a large swath of ocean from Port Renfrew to Tofino.

In both cases, the DFO has said all the right spin words like public consultation, feedback, assessment and dialogue. It even set up special websites.

Unfortunately, they aren’t listening.

In this summer’s closure, recreation anglers offered good suggestions that could both save the whales and the salmon. Instead DFO, expanded the no-fishing zone at the dismay of every recreation angler and business on the South Coast.

This time around, the DFO gave a mere two weeks for public input and kept pretty quiet about it.

There’s no doubt saving the chinook salmon and creating a safe ocean habitat for whales is crucial. (Last summer, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued an emergency order closing all chinook salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska marine waters).

The point here is why isn’t the DFO listening to those who are using the resource? The people who are most affected by their decisions aren’t – or perceived – being listened to.

By not taking all the information, including science and legitimate public feedback, the mandate to protect wild salmon and killer whales, takes on a second role, and smacks of politics and cronyism.

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