Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association

August 19, 2009 11:40 ET

FVAGA on Fraser River Violence

Violence is not the answer DFO needs to define Drift Net Protocols

Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, News Editor, Travel/Tourism Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor CHILLIWACK, BC, PRESS RELEASE --(Marketwire - Aug. 19, 2009) - The Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association (FVAGA) in reaction to the recent violent altercation on the Fraser River issued the following statement: "The use of violence in dealing with conflicts on the river is completely unacceptable. There is no room for violence on the river and the individuals involved need to be found, charged and face the full force of the legal system." The FVAGA encourages their members to avoid conflict and work cooperatively with all groups fishing on the river both Sports fishers and First Nations. Clearly tempers flared and a criminal act took place, this is a situation that the RCMP needs to deal with not DFO.

While there is no justification for the use of force the FVAGA believes that analyzing the situation that prompted the incident highlights a structural issue that needs to be addressed. The current crisis in Sockeye returns has prompted DFO to take action focusing on Sport fishers; restricting how they fish and where they fish. These restrictions apply even though Sport fishers are only targeting Chinook, a species showing a good return this year. Inadvertently caught Sockeye are released and have only 1.2 % mortality based on a recent study. During this same period First nations have been given significant openings to drift net. Hundreds of driftnets operating both legally and illegally catch significant numbers of Sockeye, very few of which are released and those that are have an extremely high mortality.

Restricting Sports fishers while the impact of Drift Nets goes largely ignored has caused frustration among many Sport fishers. Currently long drift nets are a legal means for First Nations to fish but there are no clear protocols on how it should be done. When a Sport fisher anchors his boat close to shore to legally fish for Chinook drift netters will often drift their net close to or into the boat. This is apparently what happened on Sunday. While the reaction of the individual involved is reprehensible it does not reflect the typical reaction of the majority of Sport Fishers who deal with this kind of intimidation daily but normally in a nonviolent manner. Drift nets were made legal for First Nations a few years back and since their introduction these kind of incidents have been occurring more frequently. Clearly rules and protocols need to be established to ensure that drift nets colliding with anchored boats is avoided.

For the FVAGA the real issue is the conservation of the Sockeye. FVAGA accepts DFO's request to use selective fishing methods and supports DFO in their attempt to maximize the Sockeye that make it to the spawning grounds. Calls and threats to take Sports Fishers off the river is not that answer and only heighten emotional tensions. All groups fishing on the Fraser need to practice conservation when it comes to Sockeye, including First Nations. In the meantime FVAGA would encourage all Sport and First Nations Fishers to use common sense and common courtesy when dealing with each other on the river and not to let the current incident escalate.
/For further information: Vic Carrao
President, Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association
Phone 604-671-3474

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