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Skeena fisheries closure will hurt Northwest economy: Cullen

Thursday’s closure of salmon fishing on the Skeena River to all sectors but First Nations until mid-July is a slam to the Northwest economy, says Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.

He added the closure likely have been avoided if federal fisheries officials had been more aggressive in stock management the last decade.

“Shuttering the fishery to sport and recreational fishers for such a chunk of the season will have a crushing economic impact on the entire Northwest,” Cullen said from Ottawa Friday. “Rampant cuts to hatcheries, stock protection and enhancement, as well as outrageous overfishing by international harvesters, are what really need to be attacked to protect our precious wild salmon resource, instead of targeting Northwest residents and visitors.”

This closure is being implemented to facilitate First Nations harvesting of Skeena salmon due to predicted low returns of Skeena River sockeye salmon in 2017, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Recreational, commercial, and First Nations food, social and ceremonial (FSC) harvesting of sockeye salmon will be closed for the 2017 season, unless there is an in-season indication of increased Skeena sockeye. Recreational harvesting opportunities for Skeena coho, pink and chinook salmon will re-open on July 15.

Cullen also pointed to the need for additional management activities such as more DFO officers to police ocean and river fishing as important in ensuring long term stock health.

He noted the right of First Nations to harvest for traditional food and ceremonial purposes is rightly enshrined in law and it is appropriate that sector remain open during the Skeena closure.

The Kitimat and Nass rivers are not affected by the closure.

With the Skeena off-limits for several weeks, Cullen expects tempers will rise on local rivers as concentrated numbers of fishers jostle for room to drop their lines.  Ocean fishing, which allows higher quotas than rivers, will likely also see a spike during the Skeena closure.

Recreational harvesting for Skeena coho, pink and chinook salmon is slated to re-open on July 15.  However, fishers are asked to refer to the online BC Sport Fishing Guide and watch for federal notices to confirm opening dates, times and other restrictions.

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