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Harmony on the River near Chilliwack amid sockeye madness

Fraser River Peacemakers co-chair Rod Clapton (wearing the PDF) greets fishermen at Island 22 on Saturday afternoon during
Fraser River Peacemakers co-chair Rod Clapton (wearing the PDF) greets fishermen at Island 22 on Saturday afternoon during 'Harmony on the River' with co-chair Ernie Crey (behind him).
— image credit: JENNIFER FEINBERG/ PROGRESS

Sockeye season is in full swing.

So it was seen as perfect timing Saturday for a Harmony on the River event at Island 22, organized by the Fraser River Peacemakers.

It was a chance to underline the importance of wearing PFDs, and ways to avoid in-river conflicts. They talked about catch monitoring and strategies to reduce crowding in the hotspots.

Peacemaker co-chairs Ernie Crey and Rod Clapton were among those greeting fishermen and the public for several hours by the river near Chilliwack over the weekend.

"The traffic has been steady," said Clapton, president of the B.C. Federation of Drift Fishers.

Fishermen were showing up in droves at Island 22 Regional Park Saturday to bag the recreational limit of two sockeye per day on that part of the river. Pickup trucks were coming and going all day long, with boat trailers in tow, from the boat launch.

Promoting peace and safety on the Fraser is paramount — especially during sockeye season, said Peacemakers co-chair Ernie Crey, also a Cheam band councillor.

"Both fisheries are growing, and sharing the same waters and fishing holes," said Crey. "The questions becomes, how do we share the river safely and accommodate each other's fisheries?"

When the recreational sockeye fishery was first opened on the Fraser in the mid-1990s, there was no pre-planning or consultation by Fisheries and Oceans. That sometimes led to misunderstandings and disputes, he said.

"There will be issues on the river for years to come, with potential or actual conflict to deal with," said Crey. "But with Peacemakers we've made a good start. First of all, we're sitting at the same table."

The Peacemakers group has been advocating catch monitoring and compliance standards, conflict resolution, stewardship, education and safety. They've earned the support of sport fishing groups, B.C. ministries, conservation groups, First Nations, federal agencies and more.

"We hold monthly meetings between the various groups, and we have a conflict resolution committee in place that could be called if we hear about an incident promptly," Clapton said.

The group has FN designates, and sport fishing reps who work together in the event of an incident or conflict, to facilitate communications and find a resolution.

They've been working at it for five years, in the wake of an altercation between aboriginal and sport fishers. The group worked closely and put out a pamphlet called 'River Manners,' which was "created by sport fishers and First Nations on the Fraser who care."

So what changed over the years since Peacemakers was formed?

"Attitudes are better," Clapton said. "We have more understanding about each other's fisheries. We've demonstrated a desire to see changes now and for future generations."

To get help from the group, to have a river incident investigated by their conflict resolution committee, email riverpeacemaker@gmail.com. Do not report to the Peacemakers any allegations of illegal fishing or criminal behaviour, which is the responsibility of RCMP and DFO.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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