Fisheries and Oceans are currently considering on a fishing ban for chinook and sockeye salmon on the North Coast of B.C. (Fisheries and Oceans map)

LETTER: B.C. getting east-coast treatment

A response to DFO’s management of the West Coast’s fisheries

Dear Editor,

I would like to commend our MP Nathan Cullen on going after the DFO for their abysmal record of managing the fish stocks on the west coast. It is too bad our MLA in Victoria does not add his name to this pressing issue.

The core problem of the DFO is their subservience to the commercial fishing industry. This was the root cause of the destruction of the cod and the crab fishery on the east coast around Newfoundland.

It seems to me that the same scenario is repeating itself now on the west coast.

In a recent article on the DFO in the Northern View a couple of weeks ago there was no mention of limits on the commercial fishery whatsoever.

It is the commercial fishery which is decimating the fishing stocks.

Stretching nets across the mouths of the rivers when the salmon are trying to get up the river to spawn is criminal behaviour in my opinion.

They have been doing this for decades and this is the reason the salmon stocks are now decimated. It is NOT the people living on the Skeena river that are decimating the stocks.

The people living on the Skeena have relied on this food source for thousands of years without impacting this resource.

To hear the DFO talk about restricting the sport and Native fishery without a mention of the commercial fishery just adds insult to injury.

These fish belong to the people of Canada and more specifically, to the people that live on the Skeena River. They do not belong to the commercial fishery. They should feed the people that live on the Skeena River BEFORE they go to feed people elsewhere.

It is well documented that every fish caught in the sport fishery brings in hundreds of dollars of revenue whereas every fish caught in the commercial fishery brings in pennies. We need to shake up the DFO before they completely destroy the fish stocks on our coast as well.

They need to get back to their original mandate of protecting the resource for future generations of Canadians and they need to break their relationship with the commercial fishery.

READ MORE: DFO contemplating sweeping North Coast salmon fishery closure

At this critical point, we need to rebuild the stocks. The only way to do this is a complete moratorium on the commercial fishery for two generations at a minimum (this means eight years). Then, perhaps, a limited commercial fishery can resume slowly as long as it has NO effect on the resource. The order of priority here should be the food fishery first (for the people who live on the Skeena). The sport fishery should be second on the list because it supplies good paying jobs to the people that live on the Skeena and brings in a lot of revenue to the province.

Last of course should be the commercial fishing industry as it returns nothing to this area besides a few low paying seasonal jobs. The salmon are not only under threat from overfishing but are also under threat from having their main food source, herring, over fished as well.

READ MORE: Cullen demands better leadership on salmon crisis

The result of this over fishing is the starvation of many salmon and many other species on our coast that rely on the herring as a food source. If this was not bad enough, the morons are over harvesting the seaweed with the herring eggs on it and the herring stocks cannot sustain this double onslaught. Therefore this fishery needs to be drastically dialed back as well. They are not on a four year cycle like salmon so perhaps a two or three year moratorium would suffice to bring the stocks back to a sustainable level. Make no mistake, at this point, the only way we can save these stocks and the fishery on our coast is to implement these moratoriums.

Looking at the DFO’s record on the east coast and now on this coast it should be obvious to anybody of normal intelligence that the problem lies with the DFO and their subservient relationship to the commercial fishery. If the DFO is not drastically re-purposed to their original mandate of protecting the resource for the Canadian people, we will not have a salmon run on the Skeena River a decade or two from now.

Gary Mills

Terrace, B.C.

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