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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Watching a number of threads here..both in the present and in the past, I can't help but to view the comments of so many 'sport fishers' as a 'Holier than Thou' attitude towards the fisheries resource (s) and Fraser sockeye fishing in particular. 'We' and I use that term loosely, believe we have an inherent right to the resource, have little overall impact and really can't understand why DFO doesn't see this and afford more opportunities. As a bit of background....

I spent 31 years in DFO.. as a Fishery Guardian. Patrol boat captain (42 footer), Fishery Officer and finally manager (although somewhat junior, in the whole scheme of things). Added to this mix, I have been a sport fisherman, in both fresh and salt water for nearly my entire life (at least as long as I have been able to hold a rod). Sport fishermen (with the exception of the 'commercial' sporties such as the Canadian Princess operation, Sewell's marine, etc.) have to understand one thing...DFO places your participation in the 'industry' of the fishery so far down the ladder in terms of priority, that you really don't even register on their radar. They may place you, in official literature. on par with commericial fisheries for allocations after conservation and First Nations but believe me, you or shall I say 'we' are a distant fourth.

First and foremost in the minds of DFO and the Federal Government is...nope wrong. It is not conservation as we would all like to think and what DFO continually says is their first mandate. Ok...it is conservation but that word always bares the burden of an asterisk. First and foremost in the minds of DFO are the First Nations. I, for one, believe that First Nations deserve a legitimate and first opportunity to harvest fish for food and ceremonial purposes. Stepping out on a limb, I view anyone that disagrees with this basic premise to be, in a word, racist and to forget the rights of the first people to inhabit our great province. Having said that, I add my own asterisk. If you ever have the time, go into Fraser Canyon, up to the Stikine or the Nass and watch a proud people catch their life's blood with dip nets and then say they don't deserve to preserve their heritage. Then, to balance it all out, go to Chilliwack/Agassiz and watch the Cheam band with their 'f**k you attitude' or go to Campbell River or Alert Bay and watch modern seine boats go out under the pretense of an aboriginal fishery and catch 8000 sockeye, most of which never see an aboriginal mouth.

I am not advocating, by the way, that native people need to confine their activities to dip nets and fish traps or any other method employed generations ago. That would be foolish. What I take exception to is the commercialization of the native fishery. Despite the rhetoric by DFO and First Nations, a very large portion of the native fishery is nothing but commercialization. Conservation, though, takes a back seat because DFO is politically unwilling to rein this fishery in. If you don't believe me, go ask a fishery officer or call a DFO aboriginal fisheries manager and ask what steps DFO takes to ensure aboriginal access is not abused. You know what they will say?..."this fishery is well managed". First Nations have signed agreements to accurately report their catches. So much for the fox guarding the hen house. After all, why would First Nations have any reason to misreport catches?... money issues aside!

So how do aboriginal fisheries affect you, the sport fisherman?... other than the obvious one of course of them taking 'your' fish. In simple terms, because First Nations are number one in the pecking order after..umm..conservation..DFO cannot legally permit any other fishery to occur, sport or commercial, unless First Nations fisheries are permitted initial access. If there are surplus stocks to be harvested, then commercial and presumably sport fishing opportunities are then provided. It is important to note that whenever a commercial or sport opening is permitted, First Nations are entitled to EQUAL access, at the SAME time. Forget that they had aboriginal only openings. The fact is DFO cannot legally prohibit access by First Nations when other user groups have access. So the question becomes, when stocks are low, who gets access? If the stocks are so so and might notwithstand the impact of 3 user groups, who will get access? If I have to tell you, you haven't been listening.

In the pecking order of allocation, as stated earlier, DFO places commericial fisheries at the same priority level as offering sport fishing opportunities. That is not written into law but falls under the broad scope of discretion by the Fisheries Minister. Commercial fisheries will always be, in an unwritten rule, a higher priority than the sport fishing sector. The simple reason being... the majority of Canadians either don't fish or live in an area of the country where Pacific salmon do not exist. As Mr. Spock once said..."the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few..or the one". Commercial fisheries provide food for the masses whereas the sport fishery provides food for the few..or the one. I see time and time again sport fishermen arguing about how much money they add to the economy through licence fees, fuel, bait, lures, etc. Trust me, that money pales in comparison to what the commercial sector spends. I'm not saying its right, just that the commercial boys add hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars more into the economy. Think adding 10 litres of gas to your o/b is of financial significance? Try adding 8-10,000 litres to a seine boat. Add to that the hundreds, if not thousands, of processor workers and the taxes they pay. If you are going to try to argue 'economic value' as a reason for increased sport fishing opportunities, it will fall on deaf ears by DFO.

On the subject of commercial fisheries..my pet peev. At some point in time (it took DFO in Newfoundland long enough to make a decision re the cod), DFO in the Pacific Region have got to understand that the huge gillnet fleet licenced for the Fraser River (800-1000 boats) is not sustainable and hasn't been for the last 20 years. For the most part, this fishery is pure and simple a UI fishery. Get enough fishing days in (one day = 1 UI week), then sit back for the rest of the year collecting yours and my tax dollars. It is a welfare fishery. Because of the large number of boats, DFO is very careful in allocating openings. Since DFO's official position is providing commercial and sport opportunities on an equal basis, if stock strength is questionable for commercial access, DFO will not allow sport fishing, even if its deemed that recreational access will not be detrimental. This is purely a political decision and ensures DFO will not have to answer to the angry hoards of commercial interests or a class action lawsuit.

On a final note... I can tell you that DFO regrets the day that they ever permitted the legalized 'snagging' of Fraser River sockeye. It flies in the face of existing regulations that DFO has the mandate to enforce. They are now quite uncomfortable about this whole matter. The decision to permit this fishery was done internally by bureaucrats, presumably without legal advice, and the poop has hit the fan, with the Department of Justice admonishing the Department for this unauthorised breach of regulation. Consequently, DFO is looking for any reason to limit opportunities, until either the regulation is amended (good luck there) or until there is a political will to prohibit sports access. So don't ever think that DFO stays awake nites wondering how they can accomodate the Fraser River sports sockeye fishery. I am sure the Regional Director General thinks..'maybe if I close my eyes..they will all go away.....'
 

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Thanks for the great input Rivahman .............. I (and many) need to read this over (and over again) to remind ourselves some of the fine points you have made.

I sure hope you don't mind that I post this within your topic .......... I sure don't want to take away from your GREAT READ. :cheers:

I was out fishing this weekend on Wellington Bar this weekend and DFO showed up to check gear and licenses. I reeled in my line to give them room to drop off the officer at the lower end of the bar. We had an interesting chat with the officer that came to see out group. We commented that it was really good to see them checking things out. As he stated, (and I believe), it is really hard for DFO to do "anything of use" in the eyes of many .........if they write a ticket for a violation to a Native Canadian all they get is "why aren't you out there checking the Non-Natives" and words of racism. When they write a violation to a Non-Native Canadian .......... they get words accusing them of doing nothing about Native Canadian fishing and more words of racism. We wished the Officer a great weekend when he left us.

Well this next part disgusts even me. :pissed:

As the DFO Officer, (who by the way was over from Vancouver Island to help with enforcement over here this weekend), made his way up the bar he approached a guide company (about 8 people) setting up a huge camp about mid island complete with camp kitchen. The group had three (3) rods in the water.

When the DFO Officer approached the first rod that was in the water he asked who was responsible for that particular rod. The man (who I presume was the owner of the Guiding Company since he was driving the "Company" Boat), responded in a very unfriendly voice .... "There's just three (3) rods that are ours so you only have to see three (3) licenses it doesn't matter who's rods they are, there no body's in particular."

It was interesting to see that the DFO boat came towards shore almost immediately when this person spouted off. I don't know what direction the conversation would have gone if this "mouth" hadn't noticed an RCMP officer and another DFO officer approached the group from upriver. The "mouth" then decided to leave and go get more supplies.

IMO, this person was unfriendly, rude, and confrontational. It was disgusting to see this person (this Professional Guide) treat a caretaker of this resource that way. Let me guess, his next breath will probably be ....... "Where's the DFO? Them lazy bums."


GOFISH 8)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the input Gofish..no I don't mind in the least your addition to this thread. Its more than welcome. You bring up a very good point in your post. Too often (although its a natural thing to do) we vent our frustrations at the first DFO person we see and if that person is in uniform, so much the better! As having been on both sides and still having a great many friends at DFO, I can honestly tell you that our (meaning us 'sporties') frustration over what is happening to the sport fishery is not only mirrored by Fishery Officers but, in many cases, is compounded by the fact that their legal duty to protect the resource is effectively stymied by their political masters. They are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Fishery Officers check sport fishermen on the Fraser because it is a total waste of their time to do any enforcement on First Nations. You may disagree on the approach but it is a sad fact that we all better get used to. There is no sense blowing off steam at a Fisheries Officer. It may make you feel better and make him/her feel uncomfortable but its a waste of time. Write the Regional Director General of DFO, write your local MP, write the Prime Minister....tell them what an unacceptable job they are doing in protecting the resource. It probably won't help but at least vent your frustrations at those who are truly responsible for the chaotic mess we find ourselves in.

With few exceptions (and there were a few), I always thought that field people, whether Fisheries Guardians, Fisheries Officers or biological technicians were more concerned about and committed to resource conservation than the people inhabiting the 'ivory towers' of the Department. Granted, the job of conservation as seen through the eyes of field staff was devoid of the 'political implications' that the senior hand wringers have to deal with. So the question I have always asked is 'With the track record of DFO, isn't it about time that we turned resource conservation and allocation over to the private sector?" The government has proven time and time again to be spineless, bending to the user group with the most political clout.

People will be quick to point out that there will be too much fighting for the user groups to agree on a fishing plan. Of course there will be infighting....if there wasn't, I'd be the first to question the process. Lets face it.... commercial interests don't like first nations or sporties..sporties don't like commercial and barely tolerate first nations and first nations..well they don't really like anyone.

Unions and large companies/governments always find a way to hammer out differences. It may take a while but they always find a way to bridge, what often seems like an insurmountable gap. The one thing that fisheries disputes have in their favour is timing. Fish don't wait. If you want to fish, you settle your differences in a timely matter. If not, the fish go on their merry way. Under the threat of no fishing opportunities, all segments of the industry will find a way to co-exist. Who would you rather have bringing all parties together....a government bureaucrat or Vince Reddy?
 

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Thanks for posting this topic Rivahman. It's good to hear the frustrations that we all have aren't that different on the enforcement side. The vast majority of members on this site are very respectful of the job you folks do, and at the same time, totally frustrated with the political decisions we all have to live with. Good informative post. Keep em' coming.
 

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I am frequently impressed with the quality of the posts in the forums. We are all passionate about our fisheries, and sometimes the discussions get a little heated and opinionated, but the general mood and theme always leans toward maintaining the quality and future of our sports fishery. These discussions are important.

Thanks for the post Rivahman
 

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Excellent post rivahman. We should say a word of thanks for your 31 years of efforts on DFO. :cheers:

Write the Regional Director General of DFO, write your local MP, write the Prime Minister....tell them what an unacceptable job they are doing in protecting the resource. It probably won't help but at least vent your frustrations at those who are truly responsible for the chaotic mess we find ourselves in.
Excellent advice, I wish more people would persue it.
 

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Loved your insight Rivahman.

Im all for the natives fishing for subsistance or cermonial, but take issue when they fish for profit. ESPECIALLY when you see a drift net carving out a huge swath down the river.

For whatever it's worth, we have the same issues in the lower 48.

:2cents:
 

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My question for you Fish hog is , WHY exactly are commercial fisherman plundering our rivers and Oceans??.

Seems to me they are doing it for profit as well.

I am sure you are apalled by this as well, but seriously dude, what makes it okay for commercials to brutalize the resource while FN bands take the blame.

My take is, I wish the feds would hurry up and buy out those licences, while the economy is good and retrained fisherman have ample jobs to walk into. Cut the commercial quota by 75% and allow for FN to make some $$ from these fish. Of course this would only make sense if that fishery could be managed.
 

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Welcome aboard Rivahman, That was one of the best posts here in a while. Nice to here the perspective from the other side of the fence. I have to agree with you as the fact first nations should have first crack at sockeye stocks if returns allow it. We as sporties have only been allowed to retain them for the last 8 or so years I believe, so to close it to the sporties would really only effect a minority among us. My concern though is with the added pressure to the chinook fishery the extra F/N fishery causes. By that statement I mean years ago F/N fishers basically targeted sockeye for ceremonial,and food stocks. There were chin's taken, but mainly by accident. Now there is a seperate chinook fishery for F/N food and ceremonial and it seems to last longer with more fish being taken than in the past. Is there enough chinook stocks to maintain for the future or will they be the next species to rapidly decline. Btw I couldn't agree more on your comments on how the decisions are made on the political power they carry.
I like the acknowledgement about the F/N in the canyon and further north using the dip nets to harvest, if any else gets a chance to see it being done go watch it is quite a specatcle to see. I also agree there is a group within the Cheam F/N that seem to cause the majority of the rowels on the river. I do know they belong to that particular band because they are only a hop, skip, and a jump away and had the oppurtunity to grow up with many of them. It would be nice if there was a easy solution to the fishery debate that would be able to satisfy all the groups ,but I think the chances of seeing that in my life time are pretty slim, but I heard scientists are cloning cows with seagulls,so maybe ::)
Cheers,
Crazy D
 
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