Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association

August 14, 2009 10:01 ET

Fraser River Sockeye crisis

DFO Needs to deal with all aspects of the crisis including illegal drift nets

Attention: Assignment Editor, Business/Financial Editor, News Editor, Travel/Tourism Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor CHILLIWACK, BC, PRESS RELEASE --(Marketwire - Aug. 14, 2009) - The Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association (FVAGA) held an emergency meeting August 12 to discuss the current Fraser River Sockeye crisis. The Association also addressed DFO's request for Recreational Anglers to employ selective fishing methods and to avoid "bottom bouncing". The FVAGA is committed to doing everything possible to ensure a sustainable fishery. "While the numbers tell us that Sport fishers are not the problem we will encourage our members to comply with DFO's request." states Vic Carrao President of the Association. "It is in our own best interest to minimize our impact on the returning Sockeye as the livelihood of our members depends on sustainable Salmon returns. But we will not accept being taken off the river when there are other healthy fisheries; it does not make sense."

The FVAGA points out that recreational fishers are not a major factor in the Fraser Sockeye fishery, typically taking less that 2% of the total run. Clearly something is going on but reviewing the statistics from the Pacific Salmon Commission 2005 report (the spawning year for this current Sockeye run) shows that of the 1 million Sockeye harvested that year, First Nations nets took 84%, Commercial Nets took 11% and Sports Fishers took only 4% which amounted to less than 1% of returning Sockeye.

In spite of these facts First Nations spokesman Ernie Crey accuses Sports fishers of wanting to kill all the Sockeye; this while the only group that has actually harvested Sockeye this year are First Nations fishers. With the closure of the Sockeye fishery, Sports fishers have tried their best to avoid Sockeye and of those inadvertently caught and then released a recent study showed a 1.2% mortality.

Again looking back at the 2005 Sockeye season it is worth noting that the 2005 Sockeye run came extremely late in August and so the FVAGA is still hopeful that the 2005 Smolts may be late returners as well. If there is not a late run of Sockeye FVAGA is requesting DFO to do a full and proper investigation that includes assessing illegal drift netting.

In the meantime while FVAGA is accepting the DFO "err on the side of caution" approach they are asking that DFO apply equally strict requirements on First Nations fishers and that they rigorously monitor all parties during the current Sockeye closure. DFO needs to pay particular attention to unsanctioned drift net operations that often take place at night when DFO enforcement officers are off the river. Illegal nets can take 100's of fish at a time and have a bigger impact than DFO realizes. FVAGA believes it is time for DFO to focus on their number one mandate, Conservation.
/For further information: Vic Carrao
President, Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association
Phone 604-671-3474

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