Chinook salmon closed to recreational anglers on the Skeena River. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Chinook salmon closed to recreational anglers on the Skeena River. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Tourism coalition pushing for Skeena chinook fishery

Recreational catch and release creates lowest impact, highest value: report

A group of Northwest tourism providers, business owners and recreational freshwater anglers are appealing to Ottawa for the immediate opening of a catch-and-release recreational chinook fishery on the Skeena.

The group argues while the Skeena chinook harvest is allowed on a limited basis in other sectors, the in-river fishery remains closed despite its claim to have the lowest exploitation rates and the highest per-fish economic value.

“We’re at the least-productive end of the spectrum. All we do is fly fishing. All our guests release everything. We probably catch just one chinook for every three-and-a-half days trying,” said Brian Niska, vice president of Kermode Tourism.

“There was a time when the goal was for every person to get their limit, and that’s just not the case anymore. As we move toward sustainability of limiting our impact it makes good business [to open the fishery].”

On May 8, DFO shut down all recreational salmon fishing in northern tidal and freshwater fisheries. Then on May 30, DFO allowed for limited marine sports chinook fisheries with a precautionary 25-30 per cent reduction in exploitation rates.

READ MORE: Sweeping salmon closures for recreational fishing

With catch-and-release on the Skeena River, as proposed by the Lower Skeena Sport Fishing Advisory Committee, the group says exploitation could be kept below one per cent to meet conservation goals, while still maintaining all the social and economic benefits of an open fishery.

“That’s the kick in the teeth for everyone involved in this,” Niska says. “It’s the river fishery that’s got the lowest impact to begin with. But in the marine environment, the way they sell it is with pictures of a bunch of fish on a scale: if you come here you can leave with a box of fish.”

With an estimated mortality of rate of one in 10, 2016 data compiled by Big River Analytics suggests each chinook caught and released generated about $35,000 in the Skeena angling tourism sector. Overall the report pins the annual domestic output of guided salmon fishing in the Terrace and Kitimat areas at $16.5 million. Chinook alone are responsible for $3.92 million, creating 53 jobs annually, according to the report.

The group signed an open letter to the minister of fisheries and oceans, Dominic LeBlanc, framing their argument with DFO’s own Allocation Policy Document. It states once conservation and First Nations needs are met, anglers should be given priority access. The document recognizes chinook as one of the mainstays of the recreational fishery and a major contributor to the tourism industry. It is therefore the best economic use of the resource, the DFO report reads.

“With this policy document in mind, please consider that the commercial troll fishery that is set to open on July 10th will harvest an estimate of 400 Skeena Chinook Salmon, yet the entire in-river fishery remains completely closed to recreational angling,” the group’s letter reads.

The minister’s office has not yet replied to the letter.

In an email to the Terrace Standard a spokesperson for LeBlanc said the ministry will review the group’s proposal and is committed to making science-based decisions on fisheries management.

“DFO consults regularly with stakeholders on all fish management decisions, and we welcome suggestions from our stakeholders and industry partners on the best way to promote a sustainable fishery that at the same time ensures the protection of the Chinook salmon,” he said. “We will analyze the proposal and will continue to work with stakeholders in this fishing season and the ones in the future.”

READ MORE: Feds announce measures to protect endangered whale species

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross signed his name to the letter and wrote to Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s minister of forests, lands and natural resources, asking for provincial support, saying it is possible to reduce harvest numbers and still allow a fishery. DFO data on five-year averages show marine recreational fisheries accounted for 20 to 25 per cent of the Skeena-bound Chinook harvested, while the in-river fishery accounted for just seven per cent, or roughly one third. Ross, along with the group, says the sector could bring that number down to less than one per cent to meet conservation goals.

“A lack of opportunity will have a ripple effect on our entire regional economy,” Ross said in a press release. “Many local jobs depend on the activity generated by local outfitters and the visitors who come here from all over the world just to have the chance to catch a fish.”


 


quinn@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Liam and Tyler Spaans, (L-R), are two of the current lifeguards at the Houston Leisure Facility. (Houston Leisure Services file photo)
Leisure facility anticipates need for lifeguards

Has been challenged in the past

Residents rank snow removal as a high priority within District boundaries. (Houston Today file photo)
Road work and snow removal ranked as important in citizen survey

But residents also expressed dissatisfaction with each

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read