BC fishermen say industry needs immediate relief

Fishermen feel cast adrift

The newly elected Liberal minority ­government needs to deal with the ­devastating impacts of a ­closure of the commercial salmon ­fishery in B.C. this year, say ­commercial fishermen.

“The industry needs immediate relief,” said Arthur Black, a seine fisherman who took part last week in a foiled attempt at a protest flotilla.

The flotilla of commercial fishing boats was to converge on False Creek harbour to try to raise public awareness about their plight, but winds prevented most boats from ­getting there.

Those who did make it to False Creek said their livelihoods have been threatened by a fiat issued by federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Bernadette Jordan, who was defeated in the election. Her decision closed about 60% of the fishery to commercial ­fishermen.

“At the swipe of a pen, the minister took all these fisheries off the table and eliminated the income for all these fishermen,” said Andy Olson, executive director of the Native Fishing Association. “It was clearly politically motivated.

“There’s an election this year, and they felt that they could get some political ground by ­making this decision and making it seem like they were ­protecting salmon. Well they didn’t ­protect the salmon from all the ­recreational fishers. Those ­fisheries still happened.”

Greg Taylor, senior fisheries adviser for Watershed Watch Salmon Society, defended DFO’s decision, saying the closures were necessary to protect declining salmon stocks. He criticized DFO fisheries managers for going “rogue” last week when they announced a commercial opening for Fraser River pink salmon.

“The Fraser River commercial pink salmon fishery will catch sockeye and steelhead from several populations classified as endangered by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada,” he warned.

Commercial fishermen have been largely shut out of B.C.’s sockeye salmon fishery in the past, but this year’s closure has been particularly devastating. They spent thousands of dollars gearing up for a fishing season that was cancelled at the last minute.

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