BC Chamber Responds to Defacto Chinook Fishing Closures
Coastal businesses say conservation impacts are too small, and the economic costs too high
April 18, 2019, VANCOUVER—On April 16 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced new management measures aimed to protect Chinook salmon stock on BC’s Westcoast. While the BC Chamber applauds the government’s commitment to protecting this vital species, the imposed fishing restrictions will have no significant increase on Chinook populations compared to alternative, faster restoration measures that will also preserve the economic vitality of the region.
The plan the DFO put forward yesterday would allow 94% of adults to return to spawning grounds. An alternate plan supported by the recreational fishing community would allow 90% of returning adults to spawn—using a proactive approach that included building fisheries and hatcheries, which would also make for faster recovery cycle. While there is no material difference between these two plans (in terms of conservation numbers), there will be an quantifiable and significant economic impact to coastal communities who rely on the tourism fishing industry.
The BC Chamber is asking the DFO to first consider implementing deeper, better-financed measures to restore salmon stock faster—through multi-stakeholder investments in restoration, enhancements, and building of hatcheries. These measures are proven to be effective, as seen through the successful restoration of Salmon stock in the Cowichan River.
“Closing fishing and relying on natural production in the wild is not going to achieve the desired recovery rates in the time frame all stakeholders want to see,” says Val Litwin, BC Chamber CEO. “All the science is telling us that climate change is affecting freshwater productivity—and the DFO needs to strike a balance between sustaining fisheries and sustaining fish populations—and that means building hatcheries.”
Three regions will be significantly impacted by the non-retention (catch and release) restrictions—The Juan De Fuca Straight, The Southern Straight of Georgia, and The Fraser River. The season for fishing businesses in these areas has been cut from 120 days to 30 days in some cases, and even less in others—with non-retention closures along the Fraser River for the entire season.
“How can a business survive when they are forced to limit their openings to 1/4 of their hours? It’s impossible. Non-retention for these businesses effectively equates to a full closure, and it’s far from a silver bullet that will bring the salmon back—we need to focus first and foremost on evidence-based solutions,” says Litwin.
“Through the BC Chamber’s work with Thriving Orcas, Thriving Communities Coalition, we know Coastal Communities want to see Chinook stock thrive more than anyone—but there are 9000 jobs that will be affected here—and once they miss a season they’re done, they’re not coming back,” Litwin says.
The BC Chamber will be consulting its stakeholders to assess the impact of de facto fishing closures and determine what immediate measures the Federal and Provincial governments must take to compensate and support those whose livelihoods are impacted, reduced, or eliminated.
For local interview requests:
Director of Communications, BC Chamber of Commerce