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fish cuts

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Despite saying it had found the funds, the federal government is proceeding with $3 million in funding cuts to the provincial salmonid enhancement program at a time the industry is in turmoil with fish stocks at an all-time low. The cuts in fish production will have an impact locally and could affect sports fishing opportunities in the Sea to Sky region. The Cheakamus will be one of the rivers most affected. The Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery, which stocked local area rivers with 300,000 Coho salmon annually is now forced to cut back the number of fish raised to 200,000 per year. The hatchery has traditionally supplied the Cheakamus with 150,000 Coho per year. That figure will now be chopped to 50,000. The move has local anglers angry. They feel the Sea to Sky area is having to shoulder a disproportionate burden of the province-wide cuts. The 42-member strong Whistler Angling Club joined the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the District of Squamish in writing to federal Fisheries Minister Herb Daliwall late last month to protest the cuts. "We urge you to reconsider this 30 per cent reduction in smolt production for the year 2000 and beyond," wrote angling club president Tom Cole referring specifically to the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery. "The proximity of the Squamish River System to the internationally renowned resort of Whistler provides our club members with exposure to fellow anglers from all over the world. It is a sad day when these tourists from outside Canada learn from our club members the lack of support by our government for such a renewable resource." The club also enlisted the support of local MP John Reynolds. For a week it looked as if they had won. They were told the funds had been reinstated. But one week later, the feds flip flopped. Whistler fishing guide Dave Brown said the group was told the reinstated funding had again fallen through. He said the timing is now critical. December is when egg collection takes place at the hatchery. "The salmon are in the rivers now. They are swimming into the hatchery now and are ready to dump their eggs. If the eggs aren’t collected in sufficient numbers they won’t be able to raise enough fish." Brown said the eggs are currently being gathered at reduced levels to reflect the cuts in production. Brown, who works as a fishing guide, is also concerned about the overall environmental impact. "It trickles all the way down through he food chain," he said. "When those salmon die off those carcasses fertilize the river. Less fish in the river means less salmon die off. It means less fish for the eagles and for the bears. There’s a whole impact there and I am also concerned there is going to be a reduction in sports fishing opportunities." Brown said it is getting too late to write more letters to the federal fisheries minister but he suggests e-mailing the ministry at copelandL@DFO.MPO.GC.CA or calling Lenora Copeland at (613) 992-3474. "If we don’t get this funding ASAP it’s going to be too late for those fish."

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