I would like to assure Ms. Ellis that I neither respect nor disrespect commercial fishermen. They are just independent businessmen trying to make a living from a declining resource, which is also facing a number of serious environmental threats, as she pointed out in her letter.
However, it must be kept in mind that their main focus is making a living during this season and NOT on the future health of the stocks.
This was demonstrated years ago when a commercial fisherman suggested that the escapement number should be lowered as too many fish were just destroying the eggs already laid by earlier salmon. He obviously lacked any knowledge of biology as well as history as accounts of the early years of the canneries on the Skeena at the turn of the century describe runs so plentiful and thick in the river that one could walk across the Skeena on the backs of the salmon.
Ms. Ellis says she worked on the East Coast where the cod and crab fishery were decimated by the commercial fishery. There was no Native food fishery or sport fishery on the East Coast to muddy the waters with divide and conquer tactics. It was solely over-fishing by the commercial fishery, with the collusion of the DFO, which destroyed these stocks.
Both of them were aware for years that what they were doing was not helping, but they just could not change their destructive behaviour until the stocks were destroyed. Can she deny this with her firsthand experience on the East Coast? And now I am afraid we are facing the same scenario on our coast with our salmon.
The fish farm problem is just another example of the unhealthy and destructive relationship between the DFO and the commercial fishery to the detriment of the wild stocks. Our MP, Nathan Cullen, is also correct when he states that ALL fish farms should be in closed containment facilities on land… no exceptions.
The point of my first letter was to criticize the unhealthy relationship between the commercial fishery and the DFO. The DFO needs to break this destructive relationship with the commercial fishery and to refocus itself around its original mandate of protecting the resource for the future generations of Canadians. There is no doubt in my mind that if it does not accomplish this the West Coast salmon fishery will end up the same as the cod and crab fishery on the East Coast.
To help the DFO refocus, I suggested a descending list of users to consider:
1st – Future generations (by maintaining a healthy run).
2nd – The people who live on the Skeena and rely on this (their) resource for FOOD.
3rd – The sport fishery as this brings a huge income to the area.
4th – The commercial fishery as this has the least benefit to the area.
It would help the discussion if we just stuck to the reality of the situation we face now so it doesn’t distort our thinking on this important matter.