B.C sport fishers took to the waters off Victoria Monday, but it wasn’t to catch fish. The anglers were protesting the fact they can’t drop their lines.
“Here we are stuck, unable to fish,” said Island Outfitters co-owner Darren Wright. “It’s not fair.”
The group is calling on the federal government to relax the regulations currently in place, and to allow them to fish hatchery Chinook salmon immediately.
“The rest of the British Columbia south coast has opened to retention of at least one or two Chinook salmon per day, as of today, and Juan de Fuca Strait and Southern Georgia Strait still remain at non-retention until the end of July,” said Martin Paish with the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C.
Fishers claim the low run on Chinook salmon that was expected is not materializing. Instead, a run between 45,000 and 50,000 spring and summer Chinook stocks are predicted to return to the Fraser River.
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That’s considered a moderate level of abundance, and anglers believe the regulations should reflect that.
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“These people have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars for gear, boats — and they can’t fish for one hatchery fish,” said Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Alternate Dan Quigley.
“The minister needs to take a second sober thought, I believe.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is laying the blame on the barrier caused by the Big Bar landslide, saying it presents a real and present danger for at-risk Fraser River Chinook getting upriver to spawn.
“If we do not take action now to ensure as many Fraser Chinook salmon are able to reach their spawning grounds, these runs will face very significant challenges. While these measures are difficult, they are necessary,” said a ministry spokesperson in an email.
WATCH: Fishing guides concerned about chinook salmon fishery closure
Anglers argue that’s only a serious concern upstream of the landslide, and that it doesn’t apply to the Juan de Fuca and Georgia Straits.
“The fish that we would like to target here with one hatchery Chinook per day, are not impacted by the landslide at all,” Paish said.
If the rules don’t change, it will be another two weeks before they can get their lines in the water.
Wright said, by that point, it could be too late.
“We are losing our public fishery quickly and we need to protect it.”