Two motions passed last month by a local fisheries advisory committee which, if enacted, would have closed stretches of the Bulkley and Morice rivers to salmon fishing have been changed.
Instead the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is now being asked to evaluate salmon stocks prior to any decisions which would affect fishing.
The original motions of the Upper Skeena Sport Fishery Advisory Committee (SFAC), from mid-March, based on habitat worries, drew concerns in the community for what they would have meant for local anglers and also for the impact they would have had on visiting anglers and on the local tourism industry.
The amended wording for the two motions came about through a meeting of the regional North Coast Sport Fishery Advisory Committee and were considered again at a meeting of the province-wide sport fishery advisory group in early April, explained Urs Thomas, the chair of the North Coast committee.
Questions arose and new information was presented at both the regional and provincial meetings, he said.
They now ask that DFO “using sound science, evaluate the salmon stocks that use the Little Bulkley [and Morice], the habitat and climate they require to be successful, to determine whether this is in fact a conservation concern,” said Thomas.
“Then, if determined to be a conversation concern, develop and implement appropriate management measures to ensure that those stocks are around for future generations while maintaining meaningful fishing opportunities for the entire public fishing community,” he said.
Thomas noted that the three-tier advisory committee process of local, regional and then the main provincial group is meant to pass along advice on recreational fishing to the DFO which has the regulatory power over salmon stocks.
A series of guiding principles underpins the work of the advisory groups, the first of which is “conservation of naturally-reproducing fish and their habitat is the highest priority,” he said.
Thomas also quoted another principle that “prior to making decisions on recreational fishery management issues, governments will seek advice through appropriate inclusive, transparent and accountable consultation processes.”
“I also would like to encourage the public angling community in the beautiful Bulkley Valley to participate in their local SFAC process, so their views and concerns can be heard,” Thomas added.
Reaction to the possibility of blanket salmon closures on the Little Bulkley/Bulkely and Morice systems and fisheries management in general also spawned a petition at several locations in the area, including Countrywide Sports in Houston.
The petition indicated DFO is responsible for managing fisheries “for the benefit of all Canadians.”
“In managing the tidal and non-tidal recreational salmon fisheries, it is expected DFO equally consider the economic, cultural and social significance of the non-tidal fishery when implementing conservation measures and enforcing all rules and regulations,” it reads.
As well, area anglers and others are meeting tonight at the Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers to discuss regional angling and fisheries issues.
It’s being hosted by the Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club and begins at 7 p.m.