A newly-formed coalition of Fraser River fishing guides, recreational anglers and industry reps says the way recreational salmon fishing is managed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada must be changed to protect an industry that is worth $100 million a year to Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Langley and other communities along the river.
The Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance (FRSA) of nine user groups with more than 1,500 members issued a joint statement Friday (May 20) saying Fisheries and Oceans “often unfairly restricts access to fishing for recreational anglers.”
It listed three demands, calling on Fisheries to “manage the Fraser River salmon fishery in an equitable fashion that recognizes the rights of sport anglers,” to promise that the recreational fishing allocation of salmon should not be transferred to “another sector” and that the “tremendous economic value of the recreational Fraser River salmon fishery … be recognized.
“A once flourishing fishery which in the past opened May 1 has been postponed to August 1 with no guarantee of opening,” the statement said.
It is not the first time the different elements of the recreation fishing have tried to unite, but this time, organizers think the declining state of the fishery has had a galvanizing effect.
“It’s being eroded and it's being eroded very quickly,” said Vic Cararrao, a spokesperson for fishing guides in the FRSA.
“We’re basically all on the same page,” Carrao added.
Carrao would like to see catch-and-release programs or even tighter limits rather than bans.
“When you can’t go fishing, people won’t come here,” he said.
Recreational anglers spokesperson Rod Clapton said the concern about transferring the recreational allocation to another sector should not be viewed as a complaint about aboriginal fishing.
“Our fight is not with First Nations, it’s with Fisheries and Oceans” Clapton said.
Tackle industry spokesperson Fred Helmer (pictured on left) said public education is needed to raise awareness about the value of the recreation fishing industry in Fraser River communities.
“There seems to be a real lack of understanding of the financial value of the recreational anglers and the industry,” Helmer said.
Helmer, who operates a fishing tackle store in Abbotsford, said he was forced to close his original store in Chilliwack last year because of the decline in fishing.
Something needs to be done, Helmer said, “otherwise the future doesn’t look very good for our children.”
Alliance members currently include: the B.C. Federation of Drift Fishers, Fraser Valley Salmon Society, Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association, Fred's Tackle Abbotsford, Chilliwack Dart and Tackle, Sea Run Fly and Tackle, Drifters Rod and Reel Club, Great River Fishing Adventures and Kingfishers Rod and Gun Club.