The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) Region 3 and the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C. have announced their support for a campaign against a proposal that would take some of the Fraser River chinook allocation away from recreational anglers and transfer it to First Nations fishermen.
The campaign was launched in April by the newly formed Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance (FRSA) – a coalition of nine groups – after the allocation swap was suggested by First Nations representatives during meetings with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in January, March and April .
Gord Bacon, president of BC Wildlife Federation Region 3 (Thompson Nicola) in the Kamloops area, said the DFO should have consulted with recreational anglers. (BCWF Region 3 represents eight fish and wildlife clubs with roughly 1,000 members in the Kamloops area.)
“It’s about being included in the decision-making process,” Bacon said. “It was never discussed (with us).”
Bacon said fishermen are concerned the swap would set a precedent that could affect the way the salmon fishery is managed outside the Fraser River region.
“We’re not anti-anybody,” Bacon told The News.
“It’s just that we feel that we have the right to fish the salmon (and) we expect to be included in the discussions.”
Owen Bird, the executive director of the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C., said the proposal has created “an awful lot of uncertainty” in the sport fishing community.
“This has implications province-wide,” Bird said.
It amounts to abandoning an approach that has seen fishing allocation decided on a zone-by-zone basis for the last five years, Bird said.
“It came as a surprise and a concern to the sector to hear, ‘Let’s abandon this and do something else,’ ” Bird said.”
The institute represents roughly 300 sport fishing businesses.
Ken Malloway, chair of the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, which represents 30 First Nations bands on the lower Fraser, has said the issue is a question of law, specifically the 1990 Sparrow case.
In the Sparrow decision, the Supreme Court of Canada called for a “generous, liberal interpretation” of the aboriginal right to fish the Fraser River and said that “any allocation of priorities after valid conservation measures have been implemented must give top priority to Indian food fishing.”
The court decision said that if there was only enough fish to meet First Nations needs after conservation limits were set, “then all the fish available after conservation would go to the Indians according to the constitutional nature of their fishing right.”
A decision on the proposed reallocation of chinook is expected some time in June after the federal fisheries minister has reviewed the Pacific Region integrated fisheries management plan.