LETTER – A rerun of the East Coast cod disaster

There are few internet resources as good as YouTube to forcibly remind you of a historical event which is relevant to today.

In 1992, the Canadian fisheries minister, John Crosby, angrily reminded protesting cod fisherman in Newfoundland that “I didn’t take the fish from the [expletive] water.”

A pretty dramatic moment, still available on YouTube. Sadly, future YouTubers will probably be able to watch yet another Canadian fisheries minister state the same fact to future West Coast salmon fishers.

I think that any truthful and honest observer knows the answer to the current salmon crisis on the West Coast. The entire fishery has to be shut down for a few cycles. Better we take the hit now or lose it all in the future. It is as simple as that.

For me, this slow-motion disaster movie started in the late ’80s with the loss of the Columbia River white chinook run that congregated around Kitty Coleman and Bates Beach on Vancouver Island.

The fish were there to feed on massive herring shoals consuming the shrimp and plankton that was in that area. The tide coming from the north Island meeting with the tide coming from the south end of the Island would create the right conditions for all this abundance of marine life to bloom. In the latter part of May, travelling north on Highway 19 (now 19A), you could smell these fish in the water, there were so many of them. These chinook would migrate from Johnstone Strait into the Strait of Georgia. Fishing them was fairly straightforward. In a few hours, the average angler could get two or three 20- to 30-pounders and go home happy. Those fish were there for about a month before heading to their spawning grounds in the Columbia River. That fishing experience was typical of thousands of fish runs up and down the coast, which are now just a memory. Gone, all gone. The few remaining runs which are left now will be just a memory too, like Atlantic cod, unless drastic action is taken.

Fred Fern,


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