Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently announced that recreational salmon fishing in the entire Skeena river watershed will be closed effective immediately until July 14.
“This closure is being implemented to facilitate First Nations harvesting of Skeena salmon due to predicted low returns of Skeena River sockeye salmon in 2017,” stated the media release.
The report added that recreational, commercial, and First Nations food, social and ceremonial harvesting of sockeye salmon will also be closed for the 2017 season, “unless there is an in-season indication of increased Skeena sockeye abundance.”
On July 15 recreational harvesting of Skeena coho, pink and chinook salmon will reopen, the report said.
Conservation and protection staff across Smithers, Terrace, and Prince Rupert monitor the watershed,” said Collin Masson, director for the north coast department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “Their objective is to ensure compliance with various fishing regulations as well as work in conjunction with First Nations in their area to maintain communication with respect to First Nations food ceremonies.”
Masson said that there is a perspective from recreational fishers that temporary closed access to recreational harvest fishing will cause greater tension between First Nations.
“At this stage there is a lot of concern from the recreational fisherman with the closure until July 14, and some have suggested that this may contribute to First Nations and recreation fisherman tension,” said Masson. “The perspective I would like to put in is that in fact with this particular closure, this is a more balanced approached than some of the other options where the watershed is closed for the entire season.”
Masson says that this temporary closure during the season allows for an opportunity to recognize the First Nations importance to harvest for their food ceremonies as well as allow recreation harvest to occur.
“We are facing extraordinary circumstances. The estimated abundance of returning sockeye may well be the lowest on record this year,” said Masson.
Masson added that the First Nations have been working together with Fishers and Oceans Canada since last fall throughout the upper, lower, and marine areas to discuss the shortfall of sockeye and have represented a significant commitment to the conservation.
“To support across the board on no major fishing on sockeye is a major commitment,” said Mason.”We may never make up for the lost sockeye, but trying to make sure this particular year’s run has a chance to rebuild over the long term is significant.
Masson said that despite some recreational fishers thinking that this sets the stage for more tension, “it sets the stage for improved dialogue around conservation.”
He added that he hopes that this commitment to conservation will continue between First Nations and recreational fishers.
Visit http://bcsportfishguide.ca for more information on future fishery notices and details on confirmed opening dates, times and other restrictions.