In defense of the fish

Welcome to the world of fish politics. Nothing stirs emotions more than a change to a fishing regulation...

Dear Sir:

Welcome to the world of fish politics. Nothing stirs emotions more than a change to a fishing regulation. A firestorm has ensued as a result of the plan by the Skeena Region 6, Fisheries Section of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to ban the killing of trout, dolly varden and  bull trout in all streams of  the region.

It is disappointing that Bruce Hill and others have not taken the time to understand or learn about the background and what has taken place before taking  Rob Brown and I to task.  We have had no influence over the Fisheries Section decision.

We are both members of the Northern Branch of the Steelhead Society of BC (NBSS) and together along with our other members decide on various policies and positions. Neither he nor I pushed for a ban on the kill fishery or knew it was in the works. Yet we are somehow being implicated as the instigators and the NBSS as the catalyst in bringing about this regulation change.

Rob  represents the NBSS on the Provincial Skeena Fisheries Advisory Committee (SFAC) and I am his alternate.   There are 17 members in total which provides advice to the Fisheries Section; the Steelhead Society, BC Federation of Fly Fishers, Skeena  Angling Guides Association, BC Federation of Drift Fishers, local chapter of the BC Wildlife Federation, North Coast Steelhead Alliance, regional tackle vendors, 6 rod and gun clubs and four independent anglers. They all have one representative and one alternate.

This is a fair and wide representation of the angling community. The Fisheries Section left no stone unturned in its search for representatives.  The committee process uses consensus to make decisions.  Rarely has the group achieved a consensus over any of its regulation proposals since inception of the Committee because of the difficulty to achieve total committee agreement. To clear up any misconceptions, at the 2010 SFAC meeting, the NBSS proposed a number of regulation changes focused on the decline of trout and char in the Skeena Region.

They are:

– Trout and char catch and release all year Zymoetz River and tributaries.

– The bull trout and dolly varden limit reduced to 1 /day in all streams of Region 6 or at a minimum in the Nass, Skeena, and Kitimat Watersheds.

– Bull trout and dolly varden catch and release Aug. 15 to Oct. 31 in all streams of Skeena Region 6 to protect these fish during their spawning period.

– Catch and release only for all wild coastal cutthroat trout March 1 to May 31 in all streams in the Skeena Region 6 to protect spawning fish(flexibility in dates).

– Catch and release for bull trout, dolly varden, rainbow and cutthroat all year long in the Kitimat River.

– Lastly an annual bait ban in the Skeena River from Aug. 7 to July 1 to protect steelhead, trout and char.

Skeena Angling Guides proposed regulation changes for trout and char in 2011. My support for the NBSS proposals has not changed, they should be adopted by the Fisheries Section. I was quoted in the Standard on Feb. 6,  supporting  the  Fisheries Section and their daunting task of managing fish in the region after severe cutbacks in budget and staff following the 2000 election.

Extensive and meaningful scientific studies being demanded by the BC Wildlife Federation and its rod and gun clubs before they will agree to any regulation changes are not possible.  The question is, should the Fisheries Section do nothing, adopt the NB and Guiding Association proposals or continue with their precautionary ban on killing trout and char? Conservation of the resource is the priority and we can argue and debate which species, races and populations are declining and while doing so witness a further loss in numbers of stream trout and char in the rivers we have identified.

This discussion is positive but at the end of the day we need to find a responsible resolution to a complex issue.

If you care, you need to say to the  provincial government that more money and more people are needed to properly manage our provincial freshwater fish.

Jim Culp,

Terrace, BC


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