Angling community concerned that cuts to salmon program could damage recreational fishing in the corridor
While nothing has been decided by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, concerned anglers say proposed cuts to federally-funded salmon programs could destroy the $600 million a year recreational fishing industry for British Columbia.
According to the Sportfishing Defence Alliance, the DFO plans to cut as much as 25 per cent of the Pacific Regions annual budget for fisheries enhancement and management. At the same time their sources within the DFO are saying that staff levels will be maintained, which would mean that the Operation and Management side of the budget could be cut by 60 per cent.
"We are advised that these cuts apply to the Habitat Branch," said Sportfishing Defence Alliance president Bill Otway in a letter to Fisheries and Oceans Canada Minister Robert Thibault.
"This Branch is currently not able to keep up with the ongoing threats to salmon habitat in this province being already under staffed and under budgeted. Your new cuts will ensure our critical habitat will disappear at an ever-increasing rate."
The Whistler Angling Club is concerned with the effect that the cuts could have on the fisheries in local rivers, notably the Birkenhead River in Pemberton, and the Cheakamus, Ashlu and Squamish rivers in Squamish.
"Its going to impact a lot of people here," said Dave Brown, the owner of Whistler Fishing Guides, and a director of the Whistler Angling Club who is involved with the provincial Sportfishing Advisory Committee and the South Coast Steelhead Coalition.
"Theres a huge angling fraternity in Whistler, and there are also a large number of angling guide companies. There are also a large number of people who like to go and look at salmon. The same thing can be said for Squamish and Pemberton."
Brown estimates that there are 30 fishing guides in Whistler and six companies with combined revenues of approximately $1 million each year. When you factor in hotel stays, equipment purchases, and the fact that some people come to Whistler because they can fish, he estimates that the local recreational fishing industry supports as many as 100 jobs.
In Squamish, fewer salmon could also mean fewer eagles for the emerging eagle watching industry.
According to the Sportfishing Defence Alliance, they have confirmed cuts in the following areas:
A $3.5 million cut to the Salmonid Enhancement Program this fiscal year with an additional cut next year;
A reduction of up to 50 per cent in funding for technical and operating funds to various public involvement programs;