A ban on salmon fishing on the Fraser River announced last week will hit local First Nations hard and take a bite out of local guiding company revenues.
The closure, which applies to all species of salmon from the Alexandra Bridge in the Fraser Canyon to the mouth of the Fraser, was announced Thursday as a measure to protect vulnerable sockeye salmon stocks.
Lower-than-expected numbers combined with record-high water temperatures that could kill up to 70 per cent of returning sockeye before they have spawned have prompted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to shut down not only sockeye fisheries, but all salmon openings to prevent sockeye from being lost as a bycatch.
While local First Nations fishers understand the need for the closures, the loss of the catch will cause hardship, according to Sto:lo Tribal Council fisheries advisor Ernie Crey.
"Most of the First Nations [along the Fraser River Watershed] are small and impoverished, living on fixed incomes like pensions and social assistance," Crey told the Times. "Residents of the First Nations tend to be very young families, and the elderly. These communities put away sockeye for the fall and winter months. .. For the First Nations, it's never a choice between playing 18 holes or fishing. They must fish."
Crey said high temperatures in the Fraser have been an issue for some time and that recommendations for dealing them are included in the report by Justice Bruce Cohen commissioned to investigate the Fraser sockeye collapse in 2009.
But none of the 75 recommendations in the so-called Cohen Commission's final report issued last October have been implemented, according Crey, and the federal government has yet to make an official response.
"For the long term, Ottawa needs to get squarely behind the Wild Salmon Policy and start implementing the recommendations made by Justice Bruce Cohen," Crey said.
But First Nations aren't the only ones impacted by last week's Fraser salmon ban.
The closure could cost Chilliwack-based Great River Fishing Adventures 30 pre-booked boat days worth of revenue and put its eight full-time guides out of work for weeks.
"The impact on us is very significant," Great River Fishing Adventures vice-president of sales and marketing Matt Clive told the Times.
Clive expects the salmon closure to last about two weeks, and he said that would affect about 200 clients from places like Europe and the United States who have booked trips specifically for salmon.
While some are willing to make the switch to sturgeon fishing, others as simply canceling their trips to B.C., Clive said.
"They're specifically wanting to do salmon adventures," he said. "Especially in Europe, there is an appeal or kind of a bragging right to coming and catching a Chinook salmon on the fly on the Fraser River. For the angling community in Europe, that's a pinnacle."
© Copyright 2013