BY BILL PHILLIPS
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has closed all recreational salmon fishing in the entire Skeena River watershed and all recreational chinook fishing in the Nass River watershed, effective immediately.
The closure isn’t unexpected as fish numbers were down last year and, obviously, haven’t come back up.
“This will have a huge impact on communities and businesses around the Northwest,” Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen.
He said he is talking to stakeholders in the region and wants to determine whether the closure applies to some of the large lodges in the area.
“This is a scenario that we didn’t hope for, the numbers are brutal,” he said. “The numbers require certain sacrifice to restore the stocks.”
Restoring stocks, he stressed, is crucial adding focus must now turn to bringing salmon stocks back up.
“It can’t just be about closure,” he said. “It has to be about plans from the DFO about how we’re going to get the numbers back up over the short- and long-term so we’re not facing these types of closures year after year.”
Cullen has met with DFO officials leading up to the closure. In addition, he said, management of the fishery has not been handled well.
“It’s a real condemnation of we manage this fishery, that such an abundant place such as the North Coast has been degraded because of a whole number of factors … international fleets, climate change, forestry practices over decades … all of these things has just hammered away at one of the most abundant species on the planet.”
He said he understands the closure and said no one is suggesting that the fishery should be open.
“We need a recovery plan to get out of this,” he said.
The recovery plan doesn’t involve re-inventing the wheel, he said.
“We have a wild salmon policy, that is logged, that was passed as policy of the federal government that has not be acted on at all,” he said. “It talks of ways of maintaining and improving stocks, do better stock assessment, and the Liberals have really failed on this, as has the previous government. They pass the policy, then do nothing about it.”