Worries are being expressed about the potential closure of sections of the Morice and Bulkley rivers to salmon fishing.
The potential closures, expressed through motions passed at a recent sport fishery advisory committee, would affect locals as well as tourists.
Two motions were passed at the March 14, 2019 meeting of the Upper Skeena Sports Fishing Advisory Committee, one of a number of committees established by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to consider and give advice and recommendations regarding fishery issues, one for the Morice River and the other for the Bulkley River.
“Whereas staging salmon stocks are vulnerable to angling around the Little Bulkley confluence, be it resolved that the section on the Morice River from the Bymac Bridge down to the Little Bulkley confluence be closed to salmon fishing,” reads one motion.
“Whereas staging salmon stocks are vulnerable to angling, and given the current declines in habitat quality on the Bulkley River above the CN bridge at Barrett, be it resolved that the Bulkley River above the CN bridge at Barrett be closed to salmon fishing,” reads the other motion.
The motions were then passed through the sport fishery advisory board for the North Coast region and were considered this past weekend at a provincial advisory board session in Vancouver.
Upper Skeena advisory committee chair Sam Cooper from Smithers said the two motions followed a presentation on habitat and other concerns by provincial fisheries biologists.
The identification of structures such as bridges are meant to provide a geographic reference point to the sections of the rivers where habitat effects are a concern, he added.
Meanwhile, officials are expressing concern at what the potential closures could mean to locals and to the tourism industry and also, so far, to the lack of public consultation and information.
Houston Chamber of Commerce president Darrin Super said it has yet to be made officially aware of the motions passed by the sport fishery advisory committee.
“Last year there were closures as well,” he said of restrictions.
“Something like this now would have huge implications for the tourism businesses here,” Super added.
Anything affecting Houston’s reputation as a fishing destination would affect local businesses, he said.
Super said the chamber would be pursuing more information, particularly regarding public consultation.
The lack of public consultation and information so far was identified as a problem by John Rustad, the BC Liberal MLA for Nechako Lakes which takes in Houston and area.
“There would be an effect on people’s livelihoods and people live here for a reason, to enjoy the outdoors,” he said.
“Any decisions should be backed up by science and people need to know. They need to be treated fairly,” Rustad said.
“When people aren’t treated fairly and there’s no public involvement, then the outcome can go quite badly. And I never want to see that,” he said.
District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck said a copy of the advisory committee’s March 14 minutes were relayed to the District by a member of the community but that it has not been engaged or consulted by the committee.
“Once we receive more information, it will be referred to Council for discussion and direction,” said Pinchbeck.
Fishing regulations published by the provincial government for 2019-2021 affirm previous bans that there be no fishing upstream of the Morice and Bulkley confluence and that there be no angling from boats from the Morice River to the CN bridge at Barrett from Aug. 15-Dec. 31.
A bait ban on all parts of the Morice River continues and there is to be no angling from boats from Aug. 15-Dec. 31 on all parts of the river.