Opinion » Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for the week of May 16

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More needs to be done to protect Chinook

With the recent public backlash to the closure of sportfishing retention of Chinook salmon in the majority of the South Coast of B.C. until July 31, 2019, Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson took to the media to try to sell his decision and point to the strong recovery plan that he had put in place. 

It's been well covered that the decision to close the Chinook sport fishery wasn't supported by DFO's own data that showed sportfishers in 2018 caught less than one per cent of early Fraser Chinook in Georgia Strait. What hasn't been examined is the smoke and mirrors recovery plan that has been touted as being the answer by Minister Wilkinson. When you peel back the layers, it only takes a few minutes to see that this stock is heading into further peril under his plan.

Minister Wilkinson has said that the government is "bringing in a new Fisheries Act to restore protections for fish habitat," but "Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not laid a single charge of damaging fish habitat, despite almost 1,900 complaints nation-wide," as reported by the Vancouver Sun.

The act is toothless if you don't have habitat enforcement staff or pursue charges on habitat violations. 

In an attempt to try to show that Minister Wilkinson is serious about habitat restoration, he has touted his recent announcement of "$142-million Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund." Upon further examination, the federal government is only contributing $100 million and this is over five years. 

This fund is for all of B.C., not just the threatened early Fraser Chinook stocks of concern. Even more revealing is the fact that conservation groups are expected to apply for grants from the fund and administer the work themselves, basically downloading the responsibilities on to the volunteers!

It was good to see Minister Wilkinson say that predator control was being looked at, but rather than taking action on seal and sea lions that live in the Fraser River and eat a large number of the these endangered Chinook smolts, he's proposed another study. A Pacific Salmon Foundation study on seals found that they could be responsible for up to 45 per cent of natural mortality of juvenile chinook.

Lastly, there is no mention of hatchery enhancement of these early Fraser Chinook stocks. With poor habitat, low numbers and climate change warming the spawning grounds, immediate emergency fish culture of these Chinook needs to take place!

Dave Brown // Whistler

Skywalk trails a community recreational asset, not a tourist attraction

I gave over 50 hours of free labour to help build the Skywalk hiking trail. Many locals gave over 1,000 unpaid hours. The Skywalk Trail must start somewhere and locals must drive to the trailhead. There are two road accesses: Mountainview Drive (which is the subject of complaints covered by the Pique) and Valley Drive.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW)could open up the gate to the water reserve tanks and a private home at the end of Valley Drive. At least 10 cars could then park on that dirt road and lessen the impact on the neighborhood. For not much money, the RMOW could punch out a few small parking lots accommodating at least 30 cars off that dirt road at the end of Valley Drive, by the water tanks.

Public overnight parking at hiking trailheads at Whistler has been much discussed and never seems to get resolved. For years, the Alpine Club and others have been seeking to bring back the overnight parking access to the longstanding Singing Pass hiking trail that was taken away by a Whistler Blackcomb ski-area expansion.

Several municipal and B.C. provincial committees are aware that overnight parking can be returned by access to the dirt road behind the Sliding Centre. Yet nothing has happened (after more than) 10 years of complaints and studies. I lived on the North Shore for 30 years before Whistler and forever there has been an unresolved dispute between Lions Bay residents and the hikers who want to park on public roads to hike the Skyline Trail.

The Alpine Club, made up of local hikers, has been included in the RMOW planning groups. It is wrong to conclude that before a trail can be built that local residents on the street of a trail have to first agree on trailheads.

I disagree with Max ("Where is the local's voice in decision making," Pique, May 9) that this really is about ignoring local representation in favour of business groups. Rather, it is Nimbyism for awaiting the consent of locals who do not own public roads next to trailheads to agree to a new hiking, or biking, trail would mean no more trails.

This issue is about the wishes of the majority of people for more hiking trails being delayed by the minority of homeowners for no overnight cars parked on public roads near their houses.

 Parking alternatives are a different issue. The RMOW and the Province of B.C. is well aware of how and where to put parking lots near trailheads for overnight parking if they wanted to spend the money. However, the RMOW has determined their priorities are on fire reduction to improve the chances of us all living in this valley, and housing so those who have jobs in this valley can live in this valley, over where to park overnight cars at hiking trailheads. 

It would be nice to have both new off-road trailhead parking and more biking and hiking trails, but if I had to choose I would go for more trails.

Michael Blaxland // Whistler

Chinook regulation complaints overblown

Over the past few weeks, there has been an organized protest by sportfishers up and down the coast against new federal regulations for the Chinook salmon fishery.  

The general complaint is summarized by last week's letter writer Mark Steffens: "Attacking recreational anglers under the guise of conservation is a thinly veiled attempt at gaining political favour that inflicts serious harm to the B.C. economy and coastal communities, does not enhance the early Fraser River Chinook salmon stocks and side steps the need to take real and meaningful action."

First of all, it is hard for nearly anyone sober to imagine that a catch-and-release rule amounts to "attacking" anyone. Catch and release has long been a standard and welcome regulation in numerous other fisheries, such as Steelhead.

To my knowledge, no other fishermen familiar with catch and release characterize such simple and unrestrictive rules as "attacking." As terrible a blow as this may feel to you, we are confident that saltwater salmon fishers will somehow survive this and even, as others already have for decades, eventually recognize it as perfectly logical and hardly traumatic after all. 

Second, and perhaps more opportune, considering your desire for "real and meaningful action," the federal government is at this very moment taking the most meaningful action possible in regard to the greatest threat to salmon, which of course is climate change.

I'm sure you will agree, considering your exhortation of us to follow the science, that this is far more worthy a cause to energetically advocate than any adjustment to this season's kill numbers. If you are not noisily supporting implementation of the National Carbon Tax, you are not advocating for future salmon stocks.

If you are not staunchly and loudly opposing the one single political party that for two decades now has deliberately and consistently obstructed transitioning off of fossil fuels, you don't care about salmon.

Mark Steffans and Dave Brown, you have an opportunity here to set aside your rather overblown sense of insult and focus instead on your own kids' risk of catastrophic loss. You protested at the wrong political office. You should have been burning the Conservative Party flag outside of Andrew Scheer's office!

Bruce Kay // Powell River

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