Record low sockeye returns in the Skeena River have prompted a recreational salmon fishing closure across the north-west.
Skeena Bulkley-Valley MP Nathan Cullen says the federal government has been shortchanging wild salmon in the north-west for years.
He says there hasn’t been enough support for monitoring, enhancing and bringing more fish into the system to help avoid these type of closures.
“I know some in the fishing community don’t like enhancement of any kind but we’ve seen through American and other practices globally that there are safe and environmental ways to enhance stocks that keep the genetic diversity and allow more fish into the system,” says Cullen.
He says over the summer he’s putting together a package aimed at getting more government support for wild salmon.
He hopes they can find a way to stabilize the fishery and keep the federal government from making funding cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
“The feds seem totally disinterested – and in fact – are moving in the opposite direction; they’ve made more cuts to fisheries, to hatcheries, to good programs that have worked for years. And it’s very frustrating for me and for others to see these low numbers.”
The federal government did reverse their decision to defund the Sea to Stream Program this week.
Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty voiced opposition to several cuts proposed by the DFO.
“A huge win for our communities that wrote to us and wrote to the ministers and wrote to MPs right across Canada to let them know the importance of the Stream to Sea program.”
Stream to Sea has been around for more than 40 years and 27 classrooms around northern BC are participating this year.
However, federal funding has come as a problem for local hatcheries.
The Toboggan Creek Fish Hatchery is under the threat of closing down in the coming years if federal funding doesn’t pick up, according to manager Mike O’Neill.
“We’re on the verge of having no data to manage a billion dollar fishery that’s so valuable as a food source to everybody,” said O’Neill back in January.
He was worried then that we’d lose our fishery in the north-west.
The Tobaggan Creek Fish Hatchery is one of the last in the area. O’Neill says most have been closed over the years with funding dollars not re-distributed.