PORT McNEILL—The Board of Directors of the Regional District voted to request the restoration of a coho salmon fishery for Area 12 that has been closed or limited for 10 years.
“I would ask that the regional district compose a letter with our wishes to open the coho fishery, that the conservation methods put in place 10 years ago are being met, and that the strength of the studies are revealing that our area could sustain a coho fishery and not deplete stocks,” said Phil Wainwright, Area B Director, who recently represented the board at the Sportfishing Advisory Council meeting in Port Hardy.
“Last year the rep from DFO said, ‘Please continue to send your letters asking for additional fishery of the Coho in Area 12.’ The reason he said that was there are studies that have been done since we wrote our last letter that are encouraging for opening a coho fishery.”
Board chair Al Huddlestan asked for clarification that Wainwright understood the data to be favourable to re-opening the fishery.
Wainwright said the official, because of his position, could not specifically direct the advisory board. But that he recommended the RD continue to lobby the Ministry in support for the fishery.
“I feel a little more comfortable knowing there’s some data out there that supports that, making it a reasonable request, rather than just saying, ‘Hey, we want it open just because we want it open,” said Huddlestan.
Wainwright noted the request could also be forwarded by North Island Tourism, as a recreational fishery would also have an impact on that sector.
“If we have more fishing opportunities here in the summer months, it does attract more tourism,” Wainwright said.
Define halibut season
Wainwright said the advisory council also voted to request a defined halibut sport fishing season, rather than the catch limit season currently in place.
Under the total catch limit, the 2012 season was closed on Sept. 9 when the recreation sector reached its federally allotted limit.
“In a defined season, people will book their fishing experience knowing they can do their fishing,” said Wainwright. “Whereas this year saw a greater emphasis on people fishing for halibut earlier in the season.
“It was like the gold-rush mentality. I’m sure the measures put in place weren’t intended to do that, but we did see it turn out that way.”
Wainwright noted the vote for the defined season was strictly a recommendation, and that numerous other advisory councils would have their own input to the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans.
A switch to a defined season would require alternate methods to prevent the catch limit being exceeded.
“If there has to be a conservation measure put in place, you’d likely cut the limit of halibut from two fish in possession to one fish to try to conserve the stock,” he said.
A program allowing recreational fishers to purchase quota from commercial fishers has not proven popular, Wainwright added.