The decision to ban and restrict the retention of trout and char caught in area streams that came into effect April 1 has some area anglers calling for one minister’s head and urging reform to a system they say is broken.
In a letter to premier Christy Clark dated April 2, 2013, the Northwest Fish and Wildlife Conservation Assocation calls for the resignation of Minister of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations (DFLNRO), Steve Thomson, over his decision to sign off on the new regulation, banning the retention of char in all streams in Region 6 (Skeena Region), and curtailing trout retention opportunities.
The change is the final straw for anglers in the region who have lost trust in the government, said NWF&WFA president Mike Langegger.
Lack of proper science and murky public consultation are at the top of their pack of grievances against the DFLNRO. Langegger also said that if conservation is the top concern for the ministry, then the fisheries should be shut down completely – no more catch and release, no more guiding industry, an industry which he says has taken priority over regular fishermen like him.
The group says it’s been pushed to the edge and pushed out of the conversation when it comes to fishing in the region.
“They talk about consultation processes and that being put into place, and the angling community being consulted – that’s very misleading and a farce,” said Langegger. “The regional branch of the BCWF and all rod and gun clubs have removed their support for the SFAC, which was designed to be an angling consultation process specific to the region.”
The proposal originated at the 2012 Skeena Fisheries Advisory Committee (SFAC) meeting.
The province is standing by the regulation change, and the process behind it, saying the move falls in line with the government’s conservation first approach to angling, that other jurisdictions have similar regulations in place, and that the regulation changed substantially from the original proposal after considering all of the evidence submitted.
The ministry received approximately two dozen responses to the proposal, with a majority opposed, said ministry spokesperson Brennan Clarke in an emailed response. A petition was also received with approximately 800 signatures opposing the proposed regulation.
“There has been considerable opportunity for input, as evidenced by the relatively high volume of submissions received. All feedback was actively considered and … the proposed regulation was amended to allow limited trout retention,” he said.
Other western North America jurisdiction indicate that as angling and habitat impacts increase, a high risk of population decline is created, said the ministry in its response, noting that it needs to reduce harvest quotas until a better assessment of risk can be made and that work is ongoing to assess where risks are likely low enough to restore additional harvest opportunities.
And the ministry is aware that rod and gun clubs and the regional BCWF branch have not been attending the SFAC meetings.
“The proposed regulation was discussed actively at the Advisory Committee in March 2012, and obviously we would prefer their voice at that table to provide input throughout the regulatory review process,” Clarke said, noting the regulation change was also discussed at the provincial angling advisory team in December 2012 and presented to six First Nations in the region.
“These groups have still received meeting invitations as well as agendas for these meetings, and all related correspondence which would include notification of proposed regulation changes,” he said.