Recently introduced fisheries regulations to protect Fraser River chinook species will have an effect on Powell River businesses catering to the fishing industry, according to business managers.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced that chinook salmon populations have been in decline for years, and of the 13 wild Fraser River chinook salmon populations, only one is not at risk. Fisheries and Oceans announced measures on April 16 for recreational fishing, commercial fishing and first nations fishing aimed at protecting runs considered endangered.
For the Powell River region, there is non-retention of chinook salmon until July 15, a daily limit of one per person per day from July 15 to August 29, and two chinook per person per day from August 30 until December 31. Annual limit for chinook retention per person drops from 30 fish to 10.
Powell River Outdoors owner Sam Sansalone said the sport fishery has turned into a huge tourism factor for communities such as Powell River. He said over the years he has sold thousands of fishing licences. In Powell River, during the last five years, the fishing has never been better, according to Sansalone.
He said he does not believe the sky is falling, but his concern is whether the endangered chinook, when they return to the Fraser River, are going to be left alone. He said if that’s not the case, there will be conflict.
“What these rules are going to do is divide people,” said Sansalone. “Right now, we need everybody on the same page.”
He said he has no problem doing his part but hopes all of the other stakeholders share the same view.
Sansalone said the chinook curtailment will affect a significant number of local businesses in some fashion. In terms of his business, there will be fewer staff, he’s cancelled his future fishing tackle orders, and he is not optimistic about the future because it’s out of his control.
Sansalone said he thinks retention of one salmon and 10 per year possession limit would have been preferable to the current regulations. Fishers have no problem conserving, he said.
The regulations, while difficult, are not the end of the world, according to Sansalone. People can still fish, they just cannot retain chinook until July 15. There’s still lots of other species fishers can fish.
“We’re going to survive but we are going to go backwards and will have to dig ourselves out,” said Sansalone.
Marine Traders manager Jim Coulton said the regulations are going to have a big impact on his business and many other businesses in Powell River. He said his store invested in its salmon fishing merchandise last year before the sudden changes were announced.
“The majority of our purchasing has been done and these decisions by fisheries came last minute; it will have an impact on us,” said Coulton. “We’ll take the high road and do the best we can with what we are dealt but we are not very happy with it. Salmon fishing is a significant part of our business. It’s one of the main reasons people own boats.”
Coulton said businesses such as his will continue to voice opinions through the sport fishing advisory board and the sport fishing institute.
“Hopefully there will be some balance between the ecological versus the socioeconomic impacts,” said Coulton.
He added that some of FOC’s own numbers indicate the closures are only going to have a five per cent maximum impact on fish returning in critical runs they are worried about.