Local politicians oppose fish ban plan

Both the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and the City of Terrace have come out in opposition to catch and release only proposal

Both the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and the City of Terrace have come out in opposition to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations’ proposal to move to catch and release only for trout and char caught in Skeena region rivers and streams.

At the Jan. 25 regional district meeting, the board voted in favour of writing a letter of opposition to the proposal, after hearing City of Terrace representatives Bruce Bidgood and Lynne Christiansen and Thornhill director Ted Ramsey speak to the topic.

And the City of Terrace followed in the regional district’s footsteps the following Monday, Jan. 28, at its regular council meeting, also voting to send a letter of opposition to the ministry.

A petition has been circulating opposing the proposal to move to non retention of the fish, and various interest groups like the BC Wildlife Federation have been voicing their concerns.

But those in favour of the proposal cite decreasing fish stocks and say a precautionary approach is the only way for fish in the region to survive.

“When numbers of fish start to disappear, we’re all in trouble,” said angler Jim Culp. “The picture’s completely changed [over the years], there are too many people and not enough fish.”

Culp says it’s a very complicated situation, and there isn’t enough money or staff to manage the fisheries in the way they should be.

“I’m absolutely shocked that they would do this,” he said, speaking to the city and district’s opposition.

“This is really quite unreasonable on their part because they should take the time to learn what’s going on, and I don’t think they’ve done that.”

At the council meeting, councillor Lynne Christiansen said the proposal should be opposed as local people love to go out fishing as a family.

In stating her case, she noted the regional district had already come out in opposition to the proposal.

“[Fishing] is what people like to do with their family and involves little expense,” she said.

“It’s what families enjoy to do here.”

It’s important to ensure fishing regulations are followed for conservation but this new regulation takes that to the extreme, she said.

“Quite a few years ago at Lakelse Lake, they put a net almost across the whole lake to catch trout, catch and throw them out because it was thought they were interfering with the salmon,” said Christiansen.

“Now, it’s the other extreme where you can’t catch a trout for dinner.”

Councillor Bruce Bidgood said he and Christiansen probably had more of the love of fishing in their veins than the rest of council and he agreed with her comments.

“I also have an objection [to a regulation] which would see no retention of trout or char,” he said, adding he’s not opposed to conservation but this regulation was flawed in its timing and done without broad consultation.

If the fish populations are endangered then shut down everything, including catch and release to give them time to get the numbers back up, he said, adding it doesn’t seem that that idea was considered.

The province needs to consult a broader array of the public with an interest in the fisheries, he said.

Council voted unanimously to send the letter. Brian Downie and Marylin Davies were absent.