Starting July 15th, we’ll be able to keep one Chinook salmon per day in Johnstone Strait and the Northern Strait of Georgia. That will run until the end of August, and then it’s two per day from August 30th to the end of the year. This will be a welcome change from the non-retention policy now in place, for several reasons.
The sportfishing industry in British Columbia is directly connected to more than 9,000 jobs and $1 Billion in revenue: Owen Bird, Executive Director of the Sport Fishing Institute of BC (SFI), as quoted in this article. See also the July 2017 report Economic Impacts of Pacific Salmon Fisheries prepared for the Pacific Salmon Commission and available at this link. Of course there will be an indirect benefit as well, as that revenue makes its way into industries that service and support the people who live and spend time here.
Tourism is key to BC’s economy. The fact is when someone who wants to fish is planning to allocate their vacation dollars, not being able to keep a Chinook salmon is a disincentive to making the trip. There’s no question that non-retention regulations have had and will continue to have a considerable negative economic as well as social cost.
Beyond economics, wild salmon is a healthy dietary choice if you’re able to make it. Being in a position to fish for and harvest a wild salmon yourself connects you to your food source in a way that can’t be replicated by a grocery store or restaurant experience. It teaches you an appreciation for the resource you’re consuming, which in turn leads to respect, and in my opinion, to a greater capacity for conservation-minded efforts.
This is something that we who live on the coast can share with people from all over, people who may have had no prior cause to give thought to wild fish populations or ocean health. It’s an education that visitors to our province can take home, an awareness that can seep into other aspects of life. This understanding also fosters empathy and support for the marine resources British Columbians rely on. What we share with other people ultimately comes back to us.
I’ve talked before about conservation and catch and release. I also firmly believe that you can be in favour of salmon conservation and at the same time be on board with taking a fish home for the table. The issue doesn’t force you to be all in one camp or all in the other.
A measured approach, supported by impartial science and facts, is the path to reasonable decision making. Usually the best answers to any issue are somewhere in the middle, and not beholden to political motivations.
There are a multitude of factors that affect the Chinook and other wild salmon populations, and recreational sportfishing is on the low end of the scale: recreational anglers are responsible for a very small percentage of the Chinook catch.
More substantial threats to wild salmon stocks include loss of spawning habitat, climate warming, seal and sea lion populations, the effect of fish farms and the transmission of disease and sea lice, competition for food from ocean-ranched fish, not to mention pollution of all shapes and sizes. I can’t imagine that the eight million metric tons of plastics entering the oceans every year is having a positive effect on any marine species.
We need to focus on fixing the causes of the problem, and not simply on reacting to its symptoms.
And I wouldn’t mind grilling up a meal of fresh wild Chinook.