Stakeholders say memos show DFO ‘misled’ public over fishery closure

Whistler Pique, January 27, 2016

by Brandon Barret

Internal memos acquired through an Access to Information request suggest that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) misinformed the public over the sudden closure of a commercial fishery in Squamish this summer, the Watershed Watch Salmon Society claims.

“The media, the public, stakeholders, everybody had been purposefully misled by the DFO,” said Watershed Watch executive director Aaron Hill.

A pink salmon fishery was scheduled to run on Howe Sound from Aug. 10 to 15 but was abruptly shut down after just over two days. As previously reported in Pique, the DFO said the fishery was ended because there wasn’t “the abundance of fish” originally expected, despite prior warnings from local anglers of a weak pink salmon run.

But, according to communications obtained by Watershed Watch, it was closed as a result of violations of the prescribed fishing boundaries and overfishing by commercial vessels.

A departmental letter dated Aug. 12 from Lower Fraser Area program coordinator Debra Sneddon revealed observers had reported two vessels fishing in a prohibited area at the mouth of the Squamish River, one of which had run aground in the process. A third boat was called in to help offload the grounded vessel’s catch, putting three boats on the fishing grounds where only two were permitted. The letter also confirmed information that originally came to light weeks after the closure that one of the seiners had harvested “over double” the allowable daily catch of 25,000 fish. Roughly 138,000 salmon were caught before the fishery was closed.

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