Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen (File photo)

Cullen calls on DFO for quick notice of any salmon closures

MP urges co-operation after DFO releases grim estimates for sockeye, chinook returns

Local MP Nathan Cullen is calling on the federal fisheries minister to speed up the release of this year’s harvest forecast for all Northwest salmon fisheries.

Last week Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) warned there is a high chance of sweeping bans for sockeye and chinook fisheries along the North Coast as well as the Skeena and Nass River watersheds.

On Thursday, Cullen said in a press release that he is still waiting for a phone call from Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc about the issue, as promised days earlier.

“It is frustrating and unacceptable for a federal ministry to stonewall a Member of Parliament on issues of such economic and cultural importance to the riding,” said Cullen, the NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley.

Cullen is also urging DFO to engage in frank discussions with regional and industry leaders regarding the 2018 salmon harvest.

“I’ve got all user groups knocking on my office doors with their concerns and local DFO managers are being told by Ottawa they cannot speak with me.”

In its preliminary 2018 outlook for Pacific salmon, DFO said the final outlook and a planning decision for all recreational, sport, First Nations, and commercial fisheries will not be ready until early May.

DFO is expecting one of the most challenging seasons the region has ever faced, with current sockeye projections well below the threshold for recreational river fishing. The chinook season was described as possibly the worst on record.

READ MORE: Fishing bans on sockeye, chinook a possibility

“Balancing the 2018 harvest to meet First Nations, recreational and commercial needs while also protecting the health of threatened stocks will be a delicate dance,” Cullen said.

“It is absolutely imperative that all sectors work together to equitably share our precious salmon resource. The stakes, tension and conflict are very high. We must plan for peace, put fish first, and support our salmon-based economies and cultures in every way possible.”

Cullen said he’s spent most of the two-week parliamentary spring break talking with stakeholder groups about the harvest plan. He hopes DFO will release harvest numbers sooner than last year to avoid a repeat the last-minute fishery closure in 2017 that deeply impacted fishing-related businesses.

“Harvest decisions have an incredible economic impact on the salmon-based economies of many Northwest communities and the sooner tourism operators and patrons know what the season will look like, the better,” he said.

Nathan Cullen

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