The Canadian Firearms Academy Ltd. and the BC Wildlife Federation together with the provincial government run The Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE) program.
The program is designed to teach hunters about the laws and regulations covering their sport; first aid and survival training; firearm safety; the identification of animals. It also educates them about conservation and the ethics of hunting. All B.C. residents of 14 years of age or older who wish to hunt or obtain a B.C. hunting license are legally required to have passed all components of the course. To ensure this, those taking the course are given a written exam.
Andrew Williams, fellow outdoor journalist and brother angler, and I were discussing some of the many problems arising from a lack of knowledge and understanding by so many fishers when I suggested this idea of a program similar to CORE for anglers, a notion I have promoted in this space in the past. Andrew agreed that the current angling regulations have never been more complex and that they have been further complicated by the fact that the two regulatory bodies, DFO and FLNRO, have laws governing different species in the same river.
A few years ago, I came across an example of this on the upper Lakelse River when I encountered a family – Granddad, Dad, and three boys – angling for coho salmon. The upper river had been closed to coho fishing for more than a decade at that point, with the exception of the year when the DFO screwed up and accidentally dropped the regulation. When some of us alerted them to this omission, they corrected it, and the river reverted to coho closure. When I told the father that this was the case, he was adamant that it was open, asserting that he had scoured the regulations at a local tackle store and confirmed that coho fishing was legal.
Subsequently, it became clear that he had consulted the provincial synopsis, while the pertinent regulation was to be found in the fine print of the fed’s salmon regulations, where even the clerk in the tackle store failed to find it.
And all sorts of problems arise when anglers can’t identify species of fish. Every year fish are handled poorly, and probably killed, by well-meaning fishers bent on releasing them alive. And, as angling pressure increases, we are seeing an increase in animosity between anglers with different understandings of angling ethics.
Andrew’s idea, simple and brilliant, is to have a program similar to CORE but online. The program could contain a series of videos. One could be devoted to angling history and streamside etiquette and ethics. Included in this piece could be an exposition of the various angling methods and the tackle used to prosecute each.
Another video would show a skilled angler demonstrating the proper way to release a salmon and a trout, and, on how best to dispatch the same fish efficiently. Yet another could be a series of 15 minute episodes on the life histories of all the game fish found in B.C. There could be a video on the habitat requirements of the fish and the threats to those environs. Finally, there might be a show on all of the safety issues associated to fishing.
If money for these productions is an issue, corporate sponsorship shouldn’t prove difficult to round up.
Andrew’s idea was that after watching these videos, the applicant would write an examination online, and be granted an angler’s licence after paying the requisite fee.
I suspect that, if videos were of high quality, the prospective license holders would want to view them, but, since it would be relatively easy to avoid the course and still ace the online exam, the applicants could be required to go to the nearest Access Centre to complete the exam.
The benefits of creating a challenging program leading to the issuance of an angling license would be many – fewer fish would be needlessly killed or injured as fishers who, in the past might have unwittingly damaged fish habitat, would now have a greater understanding of ecosystems and modify their behaviour. Conservation officers would spend less time dealing with petty offences thanks to a more enlightened population of anglers. An angling licence would become more than just a piece of paper. It would be a graduation certificate, a source of pride, the earning of which would have instilled a proper regard for fish as a part of the natural world and a valuable part of our heritage.