The federal government is restricting chinook (spring) salmon fishing this season in B.C. waters as a means of conserving returns to the Fraser River.
In the southern Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, measures include no retention until July 31. Locally, those fishing for spring will be restricted to catch-and-release until July 15. One chinook will be permitted until Aug. 30, after which two can be caught.
Cliff Moors, owner/operator of Cliff’s Chinook Charters in Comox, has so far lost about $5,000 worth of clients.
“I’ve taken a hit already,” said Moors, who expects a number of lodges will close. “Most people want to take fish home with them. It’s gonna’ hurt. There’s going to be a lot of people losing their jobs.”
Moors — who books clients from around the world – is worried he won’t have as many bookings as normal in July and August. Some clients who had already booked hotels have cancelled this year’s trip. Others have yet to get back to him.
“It’s already affecting me, as well as other businesses too,” Moors said. “I’m retired, so I’m not 100 per cent dependent on it. I worry about the people who have families to feed.”
Such as Chris Steinbach, who owns Crabby’s Charters, based out of Salmon Point.
“This came out of left field,” Steinbach said. “Last year, they cut us by 50 per cent for chinooks just out of the blue mid-season, which hurt business, but at least a guy can keep going. Now it’s a whole different situation…The bookings this year are non-existent, and many cancellations so far.”
Come October, Steinbach works construction before the fishing season starts in April, but he estimates fishing accounts for 60-75 per cent of his yearly income.
“Nobody gets rich off doing fishing charters,” he said, noting a “huge ripple effect” will be felt by charters, hotels and other businesses. “It’s not going to be easy, and I don’t think it’s going to be better.”
“The government made a poor decision in my opinion, because there’s so many other factors that they could be dealing with,” Moors added. “There’s salmon beds getting full of silt from the Fraser, from soil erosion on the banks… They have to deal with the freighter issues. Our rivers are good on the Island. The Cowichan had the best return in years, last year. The Puntledge did really well last year. It’s just the freighter — the Thompson and the Harrison runs.”
The government’s shut down of hatcheries in 1992 has also played a role, Moors added.
“It’s no wonder the fish numbers have been going down. Government shut down the hatchery there. It’s crazy.”