The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced Friday that as efforts continue to deal with a rockslide near Big Bar, north of Lillooet, that’s making it difficult for spawning chinook salmon to move upstream it will implement “temporary fisheries management measures.”
Anglers in northern Georgia Strait will still be able to keep chinook starting July 15, after having to follow catch and release rules during the early part of the season, but they must abide by a new maximum size limit of 80 cm. The restriction will apply to both hatchery and wild fish.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in partnership with the Province of British Columbia, regional First Nations leadership, and external experts have been working around the clock to assess all options,” DFO said in a release announcing the new measures.
The size limit will be reassessed on July 31.
“At the end of July, the vast majority of the at-risk Fraser chinook should have migrated past these areas into the Fraser River,” the release said.
DFO has also been working with First Nations to minimize chinook harvests above the slide site, but management plans and restrictions for First Nations Food Social Ceremonial fisheries already in place below the landslide will not be affected.
“The emergency measures announced today represent an unquestionably difficult decision in terms of the impacts these measures will have for First Nations communities who rely on Chinook as a food source and for recreational fish harvesters,” DFO officials said. “However, the potential for permanent loss of these Chinook populations represent a greater threat to the livelihoods of all those who depend on salmon for sustenance and economic opportunity as well as for the wildlife that depend on them as a food source.”
Fisheries minister Jonathan Wilkinson, MP for North Vancouver, did not participate in the Friday afternoon media briefing by DFO, but said in a statement included in the announcement, “Given the current situation, if we do not take action now to ensure as many Fraser Chinook salmon are able to reach their spawning grounds, these runs will face very significant challenges… While these measures are difficult, they are necessary. The survival of these runs is critical to the future sustainability of these salmon and to the economic livelihood of many who depend on these stocks.”