Anglers catch and release in the Skeena River, 2015. (file photo)

Cullen to fisheries minister: do your job

MP calls for new minister to visit northwest, see salmon crisis in person

There’s a crisis in the northwest and we need leadership, said Nathan Cullen last week. In a regular scrum with regional news media the Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP spared no criticism of how Jonathan Wilkinson has spent his first two months as Canada’s new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

“We have a new fish minister in place that doesn’t seem able to return phone calls, and he has not yet agreed to come up to the Northwest and find out about what’s happened here,” Cullen said. “I just want him to do his job. That job is coming up to the Skeena, talking with people on the ground to hear the real deal, not from his officials in Ottawa that keep him in the dark and feed him a bunch of garbage.”

Jonathan Wilkinson

Part of Wilkinson’s mandate, issued Aug. 28, is to work with the B.C. government to secure a healthy future for Pacific salmon, with concrete deliverables by 2019, the International Year of the Salmon.

READ MORE: Salmon closures a devestating blow to businesses

“I want him to meet our people, hear our ideas and solutions to build up the stocks and renew this fishery,” Cullen said.

The MP said he is frustrated on a number of fronts in dealing with DFO on decisions being made around this year’s fishing closures, and hopes to see better communication involving all stakeholders in the sport, commercial and First Nations fisheries where tensions are rising and economies suffering.

“The DFO is just not talking. People have to understand the decisions that are being made—and those decisions need to be communicated properly.”

Ecstall River controversy

Cullen is also pushing DFO for a full investigation into what he called the Ecstall River controversy, an incident last month when the Komaham Lodge secured a fishing permit from the Lax Kwalaams band for the purpose of conducting scientific research with a group comprised of wealthy non-resident anglers.

READ MORE: Anglers furious over VIP fishing trip

“Somehow you can buy your way onto BC rivers if you’re a rich American? This causes me concerns. I just don’t know how this is even legal, never mind possible.”

Cullen said he’s held conversations with DFO and the Komaham Lodge, and was scheduled to speak with the facility’s owner, Bass Pro Shops, later in the day.

“From what they’ve told us so far, this was to do science, that these are wealthy people who want to donate to conservation work. It just has this fringe benefit of fishing on an exclusive and closed river.

“I’ve got to hear something a lot better than that, because resident anglers are pretty ticked off.”

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