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BC Wildlife Fed opposes blanket fish ban proposal

The British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF) has come out against the proposal to move trout and char to catch and release only in Skeena-region rivers and streams, citing the blanket nature of the proposal and the lack of money to properly manage the system.

“Part of our position is that this is a blanket prohibition and the system lacks funding for the good management of the resource,” said Bill Bosch, president of the body which says it represents roughly 40,000 British Columbians. “Funding’s been cut all across the province for all kinds of wildlife management issues. It is a provincial issue – you can’t do more of the same with less money.”

The proposal as posted on the forests, lands and natural resource operations website, states that the “Skeena Region requires a more precautionary approach to management of trout/char. The proposal change is to set regional angling harvest quotas of trout/char to zero. From this baseline, water-specific risks associated with harvest will be evaluated, with retention quotas re-applied where appropriate.”

If the proposal goes through, the changes would apply to the Kitimat, Skeena, Nass, Stikine, and Dease River drainages. Lakes in the region with wild trout and char populations would not be affected and keeping fish would still be allowed in those waters. Similar regulations are in effect in other regions of the province.

A decision is set to be made on the regulation change by the end of March. A petition opposed to the change has been circulating around Terrace since early this year.

BCWF also takes issue with how the proposal came to fruition. Critics of the proposal say a small amount of anglers have an unfair proportion of the say on how these proposals are written.

“It’s very important to work with all of the stakeholders in a process that is fair, equitable and transparent,” Bosch said. “We’ll work with all stakeholders but the process has got to be fair.”

In its formal submission to the government, the regional branch of the BCWF, the Northwest Fish and Wildlife Conservation Association (NWF&WCA), said the proposal was a “heavy-handed approach” that lacked scientific proof.

“The proposal in question lacks stream and regionally specific science foundation to justify its application,” states the letter, addressed to Steve Thomson, the minister responsible for Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

“The basis of support provided by your ministry for non-retention of trout and char is that of speculation, anecdotal evidence, and scientific data from other jurisdictions that does not accurately reflect trout and char populations in our region,” it reads.

“Anecdotal claims should be the basis of where further science and data is required. It must not become the foundation your ministry bases decisions on.”

The letter also questions restricting resident anglers in order to off-set possible damage caused by industrial and commercial exploits.

“We strongly suggest looking at the habitat abuser, not the historic public angling user,” reads the letter. “How does restricting resident angling opportunities as a result of projected industrial and commercial exploitation in the Skeena address the real issue at hand?”

With regards to the blanket aspect of the proposal, NWF&WCA says a stream with little angling pressure cannot be treated in the same manner as one in a residential area, and that if there are areas believed to be in jeopardy, the focus should be on habitat restoration and augmentation.

If the ministry is going to ban keeping fish for conservation reasons, the ban “must be applied in conjunction with a recovery plan, proper science, enforcement, and funding commitment to follow through,” said NWF&WCA.

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