Feds asleep as fishing crisis looms

Early forecasts show low stocks for sockeye salmon in the Skeena River. - File photo/The Northern View
Early forecasts show low stocks for sockeye salmon in the Skeena River.
— image credit: File photo/The Northern View

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is slamming the Trudeau government for ignoring what he calls a North Coast fishing industry in crisis.

“I’m not sure that Ottawa fully understands yet – we’re trying to get them to understand what the crisis means to our communities, yet we don’t seem to get enough attention ... It is on our radar for sure and something that we’re raising with the government as to what the plan is, how to stop this constant crisis by better fish management, better enhancement, better support and also look at compensation options if we do have a really rough season again,” Cullen said.

Cullen said it seems like a constant, year-after-year crisis of low fish stocks and the government’s failure to manage the wild salmon stocks and governing rules on fishing — rules he says are becoming more and more limiting every year.

“They’ve been trying to force fish farms in and they spend a lot of money doing that, and when it comes to wild salmon on the coast, it’s really challenging to get Ottawa to listen,” he said, adding that the government needs to start properly enforcing things they’ve already agreed to like Fisheries and Oceans’ Wild Salmon Policy, designed to maintain healthy salmon stocks.

After the announcement by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to protect a network of glass sponge reefs on the North Coast, causing some fishermen to throw up their arms in frustration over the amount of area being protected, Cullen said that the consultation process could have gone smoother and incorporated many more voices before the Marine Protected Area (MPA) regulations took effect, which bans some groundfish and rockfish trawling practices for commercial fishermen in large segments of the coast.

“It seems that more folks were left out than were brought in – and if there’s a need to offer up other opportunities for compensation, that should be something considered,” Cullen said.

However, numerous communities along the coast have been supportive of the increased protection in the government’s move to protect five per cent of Canada’s waters by the end of the year.

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