It is with sadness that I see news that the Juan de Fuca Invitational Salmon Championship near Victoria has been cancelled for 2012.
The fact that this important social and cultural event for the B.C. recreational fishery that, over its 25 year history has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for much-needed salmon habitat and stock enhancement work has been cancelled should be enough of a tragedy, but it isn’t the whole story.
This major blow to the B.C. angling community and the tourism based businesses that support it is a symptom of a far larger problem. It appears that over the past couple of decades the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has forgotten how important recreational fishing is to British Columbians and increasingly seems to have lost touch with the value of our fishery and how it works.
To illustrate the depth of this problem, you only have to look as far as DFO’s own planning and priority document for 2012. It shows that the target landed value for commercial fisheries nationwide is $5 billion, while the target for the value of the recreational fishery is $7.5 billion. The seriousness of the problem becomes even more evident when we find out that DFO intends on spending $101.6 million to support commercial fisheries activity, while the recreational fishery is allocated $5.9 million. Talk about no respect. How on Earth can this be justified?
The issues that flow out of this clear disregard for the recreational fishery affect many species across the entire province. Coho, Chinook, halibut, prawn, and crab are all glaring examples of fisheries where the recreational sector is becoming increasingly marginalized.
The public outcry surrounding halibut is well documented, and yet even after making a tiny readjustment to the allocation, the minister has still tried to placate the commercial lobby by allowing individuals to lease quotas from commercial quota holders and thereby remove all bag limits or seasons for themselves. The DFO encourages this blatant defiling of the basic rules and ethics of sport fishing which is disgusting.
Certain Chinook and Coho stocks in the mid-Fraser River have been declining for more than a decade and DFO has been aware of this. What have they done to address or even gain an understanding of the problem? Nothing, other than attempts to “shave the iceberg” by chipping away at an insignificant recreational catch. They know that further reductions in sport catch will do nothing to help these stocks, yet once again they will take what they feel is the path of least resistance rather than deal with the thornier issues. This isn’t good enough, and until DFO is forced to address the fundamental issues of salmon production and in-river mortality rather than recreational catch, there will be no light at the end of this tunnel any time soon.
It is time to stop allowing DFO to take the easy road. Personally I’m fed up with DFO managers who are only interested in creating confrontation between sectors and short-sighted band-aid solutions to long-term problems.
If the 300,000 or so anglers who value the precious time we spend on the water with family and friends, and the hundreds of businesses that are keeping coastal communities afloat across this province with their economic activity aren’t important to DFO, perhaps it’s time we remind them that we are here, we are important and we aren’t going anywhere.
If you care about the future of your recreational fishery, the time has come to say enough is enough. Write the minister, talk to your local politicians, or just do something to make them understand that we are important, we do care and we have had enough.
GM, Pedder Bay RV Resort & Marina, Oak Bay Marine Group