Thursday, September 17, 2009

British Columbia asks for a review of DFO management policies

“The wide disparity between the forecasted and actual returns of Fraser River sockeye is a serious issue for British Columbians,” -- British Columbia Environment Minister Barry Penner expressing the province's concern over recent events in the Pacific salmon fishery...

The province may have lost control of its aquaculture industry to the Federal Government in recent weeks, but they turn the tables on the Feds with a call for a review of the DFO management of the Pacific fishery.

The Globe and Mail outlines the provinces concerns over the forecasting abilities of DFO, this after the dramatic decline of the Fraser River run which saw but 1.37 million returning salmon, from an original forecast of a run of at least 10 million salmon.

Penner offered up his request to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in a letter from August 26th that called for a review of the DFO efforts on the West Coast, calling it something that is needed to restore confidence in the federal government's handling of fisheries issues on the West coast.

The release of the details of his letter today, came as the provincial government becomes increasingly under attack over their handling of environmental issues.

There has been little reaction to his letter from Minister Shea, though she has apparently accepted the need for a review of the past season, though she has not committed to a public review.

That public review or at least a fishery summit, has been and idea that is on the front burner with the MLA for the North Coast Gary Coons, who has frequently expressed his concerns over DFO issues through this past season.

Both he and Nathan Cullen, the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley have been calling for the Minister to make a trip to the North coast to examine first hand the state of the Pacific Fishery and to learn more from those stakeholders that make their livings on the North Coast. In fact, Cullen reported last week that a parliamentary committee was making plans to visit the North Coast to find out what's happening here.

Some of that frustration with how Ottawa handles the resource and the industry was vented by Rafe Mair in a recent article for the Tyee, in it he reviews the travel agenda of Minister Shea, who while apparently not inclined to check out the state of the fishery on the North coast, did find time to travel to Norway and attend an aqua culture conference.

While there probably is a need for a Fisheries Minister to be aware of all of the issues including the nature of aquaculture and how it works, her lack of interest in attending to what has become a crisis situation on the West Coast certainly won't win her any points with the wild salmon industry here, in fact it may only reinforce the notion that Ottawa is less concerned with their fate, than it is with the large industrial firms that make up the aquaculture business.

While he certainly has his opinions when it comes to the aquaculture industry and its impact on the province's fishery, and approaches his articles from that bias, his thoughts will certainly resonate with those that have been impacted the most by this year's dramatic reduction in returning salmon.

The Minister who has avoided a trip to Northern B. C. so far, may find that her first trip, if it ever comes about, is going to be a controversial, emotional and most likely quite educational session.

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