Sport fishing guides say federal chinook rules will be harmful

Sport fishing guides say federal chinook rules will be harmful
WatchThe West Coast Guides Fishing Association says it's already a challenging year because of COVID-19 and the new Fraser River chinook rules are only making matters worse.

Fishing guides say it’s another strike for sport fishing in our province with the federal government announcing new restrictions it hopes will protect a depleting chinook run.

A fishing guide and the head of the West Coast Guides Fishing Association says this year is already proving to be difficult with COVID-19 resulting in a significant loss of business but he says new federal rules surrounding Fraser River Chinook will only make it worse.

“This is a definite double whammy,” said Pat Ahern, the association’s president.

“It is really going to hurt the economies of small coastal communities that rely very heavily on the recreational fisheries.”

The federal government announced Friday that climate change, warming oceans and less productive salmon habitat in freshwater are forcing the new restrictions.

On top of an all-season maximum size limit, people can’t retain a chinook until July 15 in most regions and the restrictions tighten closer to the Fraser River. Those who want to fish in the river will have to wait for Nov. 1.

“We do know an opportunity to catch chinook and bring one home for the family and enjoy cooking it and eating it is a big motivator for people to be involved in the fishery,” said Ahern.

“Without those opportunities and expectation of catch people simply won’t come.”

Ahern said it’s disappointed the government isn’t allowing the retention of hatchery marked chinook as it recommended.

“Which are really a conservation tool, which would allow us to fish for hatchery chinook and retain them while allowing wild fish and stocks of concern to pass through the fishery,” he said.

Ahern says he’s hoping the government will make major investments that will improve water quality, fish habitat and add strategic predator control.

He would also like all hatchery-raised salmon to be marked in the future with the plan they could be retained by sport fishermen so the industry and wild stocks can both survive.

A freshwater hatchery on Great Central Lake recently celebrated 20 years of raising chinook.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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