Rupert’s coho derby unpopular with regional district

  • Aug. 28, 2006 2:00 p.m.

by Alex Rinfret-Prince Rupert’s $100,000-plus coho derby came under fire from regional district directors when they met in Masset Friday afternoon (Aug. 18).
Directors said the six-week derby targets the wrong fish and takes place over far too long a period, and had many questions about how such an event ever got approved.
The derby is being run by Tourism Prince Rupert with money handed to the northern region from the provincial government. The $450,000 was meant to help the area attract tourists despite the loss of the Queen of the North. (Not all of it is being spent on the derby; one chunk is paying for brochures promoting the islands to be sent to Alaska.)
But some regional district directors said the money could have been better spent on other things, and wondered why they weren’t consulted.
Des Nobels, a former commercial fisherman who represents Area A on the mainland, said the derby could have targetted a less vulnerable fish, could have taken place over a shorter period of time, and could have offered prizes for mystery weights rather than the biggest fish.
Area C director Karl Bergman said commercial fishermen will be the ones who suffer as a result of the derby.
“The reality is, it could have been a frigging treasure hunt in Prince Rupert’s garbage dump for the $100,000,” he said. “It didn’t have to be the coho.”
But Prince Rupert mayor Herb Pond said it would be unrealistic to expect Tourism Prince Rupert and the Northern Fund Management Committee to have consulted with the regional district, because the decision how to spend the money had to be made so quickly.
“It was tourism money and they consulted with tourism groups,” he said, adding that the group did not talk to the city of Prince Rupert about the derby either. “This does not mean I think there was enough consultation, I want to be really clear.”
The directors eventually focused their concerns on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, saying they wondered why that agency had given the derby the green light.
“The regulatory role falls to DFO, in my mind,” Mr. Pond said. “I tend to throw it back towards the regulator.”
Mr. Nobels said he questioned DFO managers’ competence, saying he’d heard that they didn’t realize until long afterwards that it would be a six-week derby rather than a one-weekend event.
Directors voted to send a letter to the DFO, outlining their concerns and asking why it had approved the derby.
However, Steven Groves, section head for salmon at the DFO office in Prince Rupert, told the Observer this week that fishing derbies do not require any special approvals, from DFO or any other agency.
Mr. Groves said the derby organizers did consult with DFO about their plans.
“They asked us if it would be okay if they had a derby,” he said. “They talked to us about coho stock strength and whether it could sustain a derby… They don’t have to, but it was a good idea.”
It’s a good idea to consult because DFO does have the power to lower the four-per-day limit on recreational coho if it believes too many fish are being caught, Mr. Groves explained. DFO also has the power to eliminate a recreational fishery altogether.
In this case, he said, DFO assured the derby organizers that they didn’t believe any limit action would have to be taken during the event. Coho limits in Chatham Sound at the moment are four per day, with a possession limit of eight.
“We’re confident that the extra pressure won’t cause any conservation concern,” he said.
Tourism Prince Rupert has agreed to pay for a creel survey throughout the event, he said, and provide the data from that to DFO. The creel survey counts how many fish are being caught.
“We’re certainly watching the situation closely,” he added.
Coho stocks have been a concern in the past and DFO believes they are rebuilding, he said. In fact, there is no commercial coho fishery allowed in Chatham Sound, where the derby is taking place, due to stock concerns.
But Mr. Groves said the number of fish caught recreationally is small, even with a derby, compared to a commercial fishery. Also, DFO considers coho and chinook primarily recreational fish, while pink, chum and sockeye are primarily commercial.
Mr. Groves did admit that he was taken aback when he learned the derby would be six weeks long and have a $100,000 top prize. Those details had not been part of the initial discussions DFO managers had with organizers.
“We were surprised,” he said. “That did catch us a little off guard, in terms of the length and the prizes.”
However, even given these factors, the derby is not causing a conservation concern, he said.

Just Posted

Slow down for students: School zone speeds now in effect

RCMP will be making sure drivers keep it at 30 km/h or less, with heavy fines for breaking the law

Queen Charlotte fire hall is a go

Start of construction marked with groundbreaking ceremony

NCRD Board turns attention to Haida Gwaii

Fishing concerns, recreation commission, and Sandspit festival all receive focus

IV cancer treatment returning to Haida Gwaii

Arrival of a new pharmacy technician means the service can resume

Logging moves forward as court rules against Haida Gwaii protesters

Injunction won against activists seeking to protect culturally and archaeologically significant site

VIDEO: B.C. man’s yard comes alive with grizzlies at night

Malakwa man has captured images of 12 different grizzlies on video

A year after pot legalization in Canada, it’s a slow roll

It’s one year into Canada’s experiment in legal marijuana, and hundreds of legal pot shops have opened

ELECTION 2019: Climate strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

ICBC willing to loosen grip on driver claim data, David Eby says

Private insurers say claims record monopoly keeps them out

B.C. principal suspended for failing to help student who reported inappropriate touching

Principal didn’t remove student from the teacher’s class nor call the parents within a reasonable time

Port Moody mayor goes back on unpaid leave during sex assault investigation

Rob Vagramov said he intends to return as mayor in three or four weeks

UBC issues statement after instructor tells students to vote for Liberal Party

University says partisan messaging was not intentional

Cowichan Valley brothers win big in lottery for second time

Playing same numbers net big wins over a three year period

Fatal overdoses down by 33% in B.C., but carfentanil deaths continue to spike

Carfentanil, an illicit drug more powerful than fentanyl, causing more deaths than ever

Most Read