Dear Minister Wilkinson,
As you are aware, the recreational fishery is important to British Columbians as a source of food, a source of income and employment, and a means by which families and individuals connect with our oceans and waterways.
Chinook salmon are an iconic species for our province. They are the keystone species for the public fishery, the favoured prey species for endangered SRKW’s, and an important part of the cultural identity and food security for both coastal and interior BC First Nations.
As we look towards the 2019 fishing season, we are faced with conservation concerns for specific stocks of Fraser River chinook salmon. The public fishery has always adopted a leadership role in both the conservation and stewardship of our fishery resources in BC and is heavily invested in the complete and rapid recovery of these important stocks of chinook salmon.
At the same time, we are concerned that approaches to the management of the fishery are being considered that would unnecessarily restrict or even eliminate harvest of Chinook by the public fishery. The effects of those management measures would have minimal benefit to the stocks of concern yet profound impacts to the public fishery.
The implementation of non-retention of chinook to the public fishery on the South Coast of BC would result in the immediate removal of hundreds of millions in anticipated economic activity plus the loss of thousands of jobs in small coastal communities across Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Lower Mainland. A south coast non-retention approach does not achieve balance between conservation objectives and socioeconomic impacts, because the benefits to escaping fish to the spawning grounds is less than 5% compared to an approach that would enable the public fishery to survive.
We request that the responsibility to balance socioeconomic impacts with conservation objectives is properly considered. This balance is possible and can be achieved through measures such as bag limit reductions and hatchery marked only restrictions to reduce harvest and move harvest away from the stocks of concern. Equally important, DFO must consider implementing management restrictions only where there will be a measurable and meaningful conservation benefit to endangered stocks.
We can’t stress enough the potential for strong, negative reaction from many communities, families and businesses. The short- and long-term damage that would be caused if you choose to adopt a politically expedient measure over a balanced, defensible approach that conserves and benefits the stocks of concerns yet maintains a minimal level of opportunity and access for the public fishery can not be over stated.
As both the Prime Minister and you have recently publicly stated; in the 21st century we shouldn’t have to choose between the economy and the environment. We must have both. We agree and strongly support that approach.
We sincerely hope that you will find the appropriate balance and take steps that will aid in conservation of Fraser River Chinook yet maintain economic opportunity and social benefits for the people, businesses and communities of British Columbia.
Sport Fishing Institute of BC President