The salmon fishery is at the top of Nathan Cullen’s mind as he returns to Parliament from a spring-break tour of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding.
In a press release, the MP said conservation and fairness must be the focus of all fishing plans for the season.
“Not surprisingly, fish harvest numbers and management plans are huge issues for all communities,” Cullen said. “Wild salmon are the heart of our Northwest economy, culture and lifestyle; we all have an interest in the health of salmon and how stocks are managed.”
A complete closure of the sockeye and chinook fisheries is a possibility this year as DFO projections show one of the worst returns on record for both species in the Skeena. Sockeye is currently estimated at about 550,000, roughly 300,000 short for opening the recreational fishery. The First Nations fishery has a threshold of 400,000, but in the interest of conservation advisers are recommending that number be pushed to 600,000.
Chinook numbers are more difficult to forecast, but concern is high the figure will be on par or worse than last year.
Cullen is asking DFO to release a harvest plan as soon as possible, which the department has previously assured the public it will, and reiterated a plea for cooperation between the recreational and First Nations groups. He underscored the constitutionally-protected right for First Nations to fish for food, saying it is a top priority after stock sustainability.
The MP is also pushing DFO to ensure foreign-owned fishing lodges are not exempt from harvest restrictions.
“In order for sustainability to work, we need all user groups to come together and contribute; for example, if the folks on the ocean are not contributing, our efforts on the river will be less successful,” Cullen said.