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UBCIC calls for end to sport chinook fishing on Fraser River

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has called upon the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to close the chinook sports fishery on the Fraser River to reduce the number of sockeye being caught in the crossfire.

“We want to be clear that we take issue with this in terms of the overall health of wild salmon stocks. It’s bigger than our constitutionally enshrined right to fish. We’re talking about the survival of the salmon fishery itself, and I think all parties have a responsibility to withdraw,” said UBCIC Chief Stewart Phillip.

Phillip said it is unacceptable that sockeye salmon, which are already in danger due to rising temperatures, are killed by sports fisherman searching for chinook, even if they are released back into the river.

“It’s an enormous amount of fish. There is significant collateral damage to the sockeye in terms of the net they use for fishing. They very often end up snagging sockeye and by the time they bring them to the shore and release them they simply don’t survive,” he said.

The UBCIC hopes to see the immediate closure of sports chinook fishing in the river until the stocks rebound.

Barry Rosenberger, area director for BC interior for the Department of Fisheries, and Fraser Panel chair said that the department has been reviewing fishing opportunities for chinook and sockeye on the Fraser River as a whole, even before they received the letter from the UBCIC.

Rosenberger said that temperatures in the river have risen to over 21 degrees celsius in the last week; anything above 18 begins to impair the swimming ability of the fish, and above 20, effects become more serious.

He said shutting down sport fishing to reduce further stress to the stocks is an option, even just for a short time.

“We’re definetely taking it into consideration,” he said.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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