BY BILL PHILLIPS
The handful of private jets parked on the tarmac at the Terrace airport certainly raised the curiousity of the locals.
As it turned out, those jets had ferried representatives of high-profile American conservation groups in for a fishing excursion on the Ecstall river, south of Prince Rupert on August 12. The only problem is the fiver is closed to angling.
According to the Terrace Standard newspaper, Department of Fisheries and Oceans officers attended the site but fishers presented a food-fishing permit issued by the Lax Kw’alaams band.
The Komaham Lodge, a private retreat owned by Bass Pro Shops, hosted members of the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, later said the fishing was part of joint research project on low salmon stocks with the Lax Kw’alaams, according to the Standard. Apparently the Lax Kw’alaams issued a six-day permit to the group for the study.
That’s not good enough says Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, who has talked to DFO and the lodge manager about the excursion.
“We’re just trying to understand how this is possible, how a river that is closed to everyone is suddenly open to millionaire Americans,” said Cullen.
He added he is trying to contact Bass Pro Shops to also get some answers.
“The sense I get from what they’ve told us is that this was to do science and these are wealthy people who want to donate to conservation work,” said Cullen. “It just has the fringe benefit of fishing on an exclusive and closed river. I’ve got to hear something a lot better than than that because a lot of resident anglers are pretty ticked off.”
He said there has been very limited access for local anglers, which only adds to the local anger.
“Somehow that you can buy your way onto B.C. rivers if you’re a rich American causes me concern,” said Cullen. “I don’t even know how this is legal, never mind possible.”
He has asked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for a full investigation.