Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

August 19, 2007 13:47 ET

Statement by Loyola Hearn Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 19, 2007) - I am deeply concerned by the situation on the Fraser River in British Columbia, where the returns of sockeye salmon have been considerably lower than pre-season forecasts. Salmon are an icon of the province, an important contributor to the economies of coastal communities, and a species of great cultural, social and spiritual importance to First Nations. My Department's first priority must be to conserve the sockeye, and to ensure that sufficient numbers of fish reach the spawning grounds in 2007 to sustain the species in coming years.

I recognize and understand the views of First Nations, commercial harvesters, and recreational fishermen. We are all troubled by low numbers of sockeye returning to the Fraser this year, and the resulting impact on their opportunities to fish. Strong concerns have been expressed that fisheries be fairly implemented and respect legal requirements. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will do exactly that, keeping in mind that the overriding goal for everyone involved must be the conservation of this precious resource.

Ultimately, the survival of sockeye will depend on all groups - First Nations, commercial harvesters, recreational fishermen, governments and environmentalists - working together and acting in the best interests of the species. It is very important for all groups and individuals to respect the fishery closures that are in place in the Fraser River. Knowing that they share my concerns over the low numbers of sockeye returning to the river, I expect that the majority will do so. However, I want to assure British Columbians that my department is taking appropriate enforcement action to protect and conserve the sockeye resource, and will continue to do so if further illegal fishing occurs.

Protest fisheries or illegal fishing, particularly this year, have the potential to do considerable harm to sockeye populations in B.C. There are enough salmon returning to the Fraser River to meet conservation goals and spawning requirements in 2007, provided we allow them the opportunity to do so.

These low returns are a grave concern for all of us, and that creates a frustration that will test our resolve to work together for our common goal of healthy, sustainable salmon stocks in B.C. I believe this year gives us an opportunity for all groups to work together to preserve this wonderful species, and put an era of conflict behind us.

The Honourable Loyola Hearn

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Steve Outhouse, Director of Communications
    Office of the Minister