PORT HARDY – Local sports fishermen want to be a political force in the federal election.
Frustrated by a ineffectice consultation process the fisherman gathered at the Quatse River Salmon Stewardship Centre April 6 discuss forming an advocacy group, skipping the middlemen and becoming a political force.
Ken Jenkins of Codfather Charters co-chaired the the meeting with Mike Kelly, Chair of the North Island Sport Fishing Advisory Board.
Jenkins said he is a lifelong Conservative supporter, but local MP and Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan has been setting up roadblocks to thwart the efforts of local halibut sport fishermen to find a solution to the issue of quotas.
“John Duncan needs to have his mind changed,” said Jenkins.
Kelly said he is frustrated that his board passes along anglers’ concerns to staff at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, DFO.
“The information does make it up the chain (of command),” said Kelly, “but they do the exact opposite.
“We’re having doubts as to whether this consultative process is working, through the sport fishing advisory board,” continued Kelly. “We’re seeing more and more groups organize themselves and show support for groups like the Sport Fishing Coalition and the BC Wildlife Federation and it’s become quite clear that political pressure may be what gets us access and helps us maintain access to our fishery resources. It’s quite clear they are being taken away from us and once they’re gone they’re gone.”
Ted Brookman, from the BC Wildlife Federation said all those gathered need to talk to their friends and get them on the phone and writing letters to politicians telling them, “we are concerned about losing access to our common property resource.
“That’s what we want them to know. We want them to know that we are going to stand up. We are not going to go away,” said Brookman, who is Region 1 president for BCWF.
Brookman pointed out that the power of the small group gathered to hear him speak could reap the political clout of large numbers by supporting an organization like the BC Sport Fishing Coalition.
“The BC Sport Fishing Coalition is a grass roots movement that has grown to well over 50,000 members in less than eight weeks … and expect the number of supporters will exceed 250,000 by the time the next federal election is called,” said the organization in a Feb. 14 press release.
Rupert Wilson, a member of the Kwakiutl community in Fort Rupert, invited the group (if formed) to come to a council meeting in Fort Rupert to discuss areas of common concern.
Wilson drew parallels between the frustrations of those gathered with their multi-year battle over sport fishing rights with his frustration over a century and a half of battles he and his community have waged to put right the broken promises stemming from the Douglas Treaties.
“Welcome to my world, baby,” said Wilson.