Following a communication jam with DFO managers earlier this month, Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen said March 28 the channels have opened up with a useful dialogue emerging.
In a recent telephone briefing with managers regarding the 2018-19 draft salmon-harvest plans, Cullen said in a release he is pressing for more aggressive management strategies to rebuild depleted North Coast salmon stocks, impose sharp restrictions on large commercial fishing lodges and, as previously stated, the earliest possible release of the 2018 harvest numbers.
Currently DFO estimates a sockeye return to the Skeena watershed of 650,000. The threshold for a recreational fishery is 800,000. The Skeena First Nations Technical Committee has recommended the trigger for food and ceremonial catches be temporarily increased to 600,000 from 400,000 in the interest of attaining the minimum escapement goal.
Two weeks ago Cullen accused Fisheries and Oceans Canada of refusing North Coast managers to speak with him on the harvest plan, for what’s expected to be record-low returns for chinook and sockeye in the Skeena watershed. The press secretary of Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc told Black Press the ministry was in direct contact with the MP’s office, but Cullen maintains he and his staff had spent several days negotiating with political advisors for a briefing.
“It is absolutely imperative that elected officials have access to local senior managers about fishery management thoughts and plans, as elected representatives are often the first people anxious user groups turn to when tough decisions are on the table,” Cullen said.
DFO North Coast director Colin Masson returned from holiday March 23 and said last week he is committed to a face-to-face meeting with Cullen and his staff to discuss the process further.
Masson added the harvest plan is midway through the consultation process with First Nations, commercial and recreation groups, and is expected to be finalized early May.
Cullen meanwhile reiterated his call for ground-level cooperation between user groups to avoid conflicts over the limited stocks. He added that the proposed, complete closure on the two species are heating up tensions in “ways not seen previously” among constituents concerned for either food, cultural, or economic security.
“Salmon are essential to the people of the Northwest,” Cullen said. “We must respect and protect this precious resource and now, more than ever, be guided by conservation as our watchword.”