Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is calling for embattled sectors to continue to work together for salmon survival and get through what will be a difficult fishing season in the face of record low projections for 2018 sockeye and chinook returns to the Skeena Watershed.
“We all know we’re in for another very difficult season, that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is strongly considering a total shutdown on sockeye and chinook in the Skeena and Nass rivers and three adjacent marine areas,” Cullen said, in a news release. “Balancing the 2018 harvest to meet First Nations, recreational and commercial needs while also protecting the health of threatened stocks will be a delicate dance.”
The stakes, tension and conflict are very high, he said.
“We must plan for peace, put fish first, and support our salmon-based economies and cultures in every way possible.”
Cullen has spent much of the two-week parliamentary spring break talking with user groups about DFO’s 2018-19 draft harvest plan for North Coast salmon. Among the regulatory options included in the plan are zero sport retention of Skeena chinook or sockeye, and localized First Nations recreational fishing exclusion zones to avoid conflict between First Nations fishers and recreational anglers.
Cullen hopes DFO will release 2018-19 harvest numbers sooner than last year, when late notice by DFO of recreational sockeye closures on the Skeena left angling guides scrambling to save their season and soothe disgruntled guests.
“Harvest decisions have an incredible economic impact on the salmon-based economies of many Northwest communities and the sooner tourism operators and patrons know what the season will look like, the better,” he said.
Cullen also urged DFO not to shrink from frank discussions with regional and industry leaders regarding the 2018 salmon harvest.
“I’ve got all user groups knocking on my office doors with their concerns and local DFO managers are being told by Ottawa they cannot speak with me.”
Cullen is still waiting for an ‘immediate’ phone call from the fisheries minister’s office promised three days ago.
“It is frustrating and unacceptable for a federal ministry to stonewall a Member of Parliament on issues of such economic and cultural importance to the riding.”