Lots of comments at salmon meetings

By Margo Hearne--It didn't take long for the public to express their thoughts about what'shappening to wild salmon in our communities.
Public meetings held by the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (PFRCC) in Masset Nov. 4 and Skidegate Nov. 5 brought out strong opinions, beginning with an introduction by Reynold Russ, Chief Iljuuwaas, in Masset.
"It's wonderful to see you here," Chief Iljuuwaas said by way of introduction, "but it's a little late. I see there's nothing on the information board about the sport fishing industry and we have to deal with that. Fishing was my life and always has been; there were about 60 trollers and about 25 seine boats working out of here and there were times when I couldn't get a deckhand because everyone was fishing. Nobody is now fishing. I retired in 1990 and it's hard to believe what's happening. People from San Francisco and from across Canada come here to fish and aboriginal people have been phased out again."
Gordon Ennis, from the PFRCC, explained their main agenda was to hear from the communities. "We're a Minister's Advisory Council," he said. "We have some influence and report directly to the Minister. Our mandate is wild salmon - we're here to look at strategic issues and concerns re their long term survival. We're concerned with climate change and looking at eco-system based management. We've visited sixteen communities so far. Our reports are delivered to both Federal and Provincial Governments. We want the Minister to stand up and defend wild salmon."
Many members of the public noted that they were commercial fishermen, now they sit on shore and watch the sport lodges come in and take the salmon.
"The 'sporties' didn't have a good year this year and they're crying "where are the salmon?" said Robin Brown of Old Massett and a fisherman for 50 years. "We didn't take them; the aboriginal people can't fish. There is absolutely no control of the sport fishery."
"Salmon are not treated well by the sport fishermen," said one person. "I've watched them come in, and the salmon are like rags, slopping around in a slurry at the bottom of the boat. Coho have such strong stomach acid that they have to be cleaned almost immediately or they get 'belly burn'. There is no training on how to deal with these fish, there's no respect for them."
"The 'catch and release' program should be banned outright," said one. "Once a salmon is caught and begins to bleed, it's game over. Yet, they are often released because they're too small and not a 'trophy'. The Haida Nation want priority for this resource and each fish that's taken or injured is one less fish for us. It's a valuable food, not sport. I do a boat count at the lodges and with over 80 boats catching and releasing, that's a lot of dead fish. They are annihilating our species one by one. When they can't get salmon, they go after halibut."
The destruction of creeks in the Queen Charlotte lowlands by beavers was discussed. "The Chown Brook is almost completely choked by beaver dams," said one. "There is no way returning salmon can go up there."
Habitat destruction by logging; over-fishing; warmer water from climate change and lack of funding for stock assessment were just some of the other concerns, but the bottom line was wild salmon are disappearing. As one person noted, "anyone who allows draggers to scrape the bottom shouldn't be allowed to manage fish; DFO shouldn't be allowed to manage these fish."