Those in the sport fishing industry are still grappling over measures announced Tuesday to help Fraser River chinook salmon populations.
“The minister has stated in his press release that this was a difficult decision but I don’t believe he realizes how difficult and how deep the impacts will be,” said Karl Ablack, president of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.
A mix of management measures in the recreational sector on the west coast of Vancouver Island means chinook can’t be retained starting this week and until July 14, after which there will be a return to the normal limit of two chinook salmon a day.
In the southern Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, measures to protect chinook stocks of concern will include no retention of the salmon until July 31 before one chinook a day will be allowed in August, followed by an increase to two chinook salmon daily.
And overall the number that can be retained per person in a season has been reduced from 30 fish to 10.
“The problem is when we go on the road and go marketing, we sell our chips based on retaining a chinook salmon,” said Ryan Chamberland, owner of Vancouver Island Lodge.
Those are changes those reliant on sport fishing tourism believe will have devastating impacts.
“We have the potential of losing this industry very fast,” said Chamberland.
In a lot of coastal communities like Port Renfrew, the sport fishing and tourism industry are closely tied to their economy.
“I don’t know personally how some of these operators will survive this,” said Ablack.
“The minister has decided to cause irreparable harm and long-lasting damage to an important part of the socio-economic fabric of coastal communities on Vancouver Island,” said Martin Paish with the Vancouver Island Sport Fishing Institute.
They are not disputing something needs to be done about declining chinook salmon populations. But with so many people’s livelihoods hanging in the balance, they hoped the government would have taken a different approach. An approach they say they provided during consultations but was ultimately turned down.
“The plan that we put forward to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans focused all of our catch on those hatchery stocks and moved it completely away from the wild stocks of chinook which are the stocks of concern,” said Paish.
With the possibility of more restrictions coming, they’re left waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“This is only the first prong of a two-pronged sword basically. The Fraser River chinook announcement is the first set of measures we are still waiting for the set of measures for the critical areas for southern resident killer whales that were announced last fall,” said Ablack.