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Federal fishery cuts expected within weeks

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Cuts to federal fishery programs to be felt throughout Pacific Region

Commercial and recreational fishing organizations in the province that are opposed to Fisheries and Oceans Canada funding cuts are racing the clock. They believe the federal cuts will further devastate fish stocks that have already been severely impacted by human activity, while opening the door for poachers and the destruction of natural habitat.

At a Vancouver meeting hosted by the Sportfishing Defence Alliance last Saturday, a representative for the Pacific Region of the FOC confirmed that the cuts were on the way, and would likely be announced by August.

According to a Fisheries and Oceans Canada publication, Oceans Extra, the overall Pacific Region budget will be reduced from $250.9 million in 2001-2002 to $209 million in 2002-2003. In 2003-2004, the budget will be reduced further to $195.4 million. Anglers have been told to expect total cuts in the 25 per cent range.

"It’s absolutely ridiculous," said West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast MP John Reynolds, the House Leader for the opposition Canadian Alliance.

"This government can find money to give to their friends, they can find money for ridiculous things, and yet we have one of the best sport fisheries in the world in British Columbia and they are going to do harm to it. It doesn’t make any sense at all."

Reynolds pointed to a recent federal grant of $238 million to support the arts in Toronto as an example of misplaced government spending.

"I think it shows two things," he added. "They don’t know what’s happening in British Columbia, and the federal cabinet ministers and MPs on the Liberal side from B.C. don’t have any power in the caucus. That’s probably why they are all supporting Paul Martin."

Of particular concern is the annual budget for the Salmonid Enhancement Program, which includes salmon stocking programs, habitat programs, inspection and enforcement. That program will be cut from $27 million to $23.5 million this year, and cut again the following year.

"Fisheries and Oceans Canada is saying ‘oh well, it’s still $23.5 million,’ but when you go back a few years the budget for the program was more like $50 million. It’s already been gutted, and now they’re cutting it further," said Dave Brown, owner of Whistler Fishing Guides, and a member of the Whistler Angling Club.

"Of a large concern for us locally is the cutback to the coho salmon program at the Tenderfoot Hatchery. After four years of not being able to fish for coho in the upper Squamish, upper Cheakamus, upper Mamquam, or in the Ashlu Rivers – not even catch and release – they’re telling us they’re going to cut funding."

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