Sportfishing group worried

  • Jul. 20, 2005 6:00 a.m.

The provincial government’s willingness to discuss ending black bear hunting on the islands has a sportfishing lobbyist concerned.
Bill Otway, president of the Sportfishing Defence Alliance, said he’s worried recreational fishing might be the next to go, if the Council of the Haida Nation and other islanders are successful in their effort to end the black bear hunt.
Mr. Otway also said sportfishing may get a raw deal because the government doesn’t understand the value of the fishery. Recent decisions by the Liberal provincial government have already put him on the alert.
“The future according to Gordon Campbell means First Nations will have full say over fish, wildlife and timber in the province,” he said.
Mr. Otway referred to a document dubbed “The New Relationship,” which was hammered out between the Premier’s office and three prominent First Nations organizations just before the May 17 election. The five-page document discussing a new government-to-government relationship, shared decision making about land and resources as well as revenue and benefit sharing and a joint approach to consultation, has not yet been signed and has still not been released publicly.
This type of secret negotiating has infuriated the likes of Mr. Otway.
He said his and other Canadians’ rights to fish and hunt are not being recognized.
Guujaaw, Haida Nation president, agrees with Mr. Otway that sportfishing might be the next thing he turns his attention to. His opinion is that the industry operates under very few rules and regulations, and many of the high priced lodges on Haida Gwaii are simply killing machines.
“It is an interesting twist that the richest segment of society is taking the most off this earth to put in their pockets and is now taking the last of the pristine places on the earth as their playgrounds,” he says.
Guujaaw, who first read Mr. Otway’s views in the July 14 “In the House” column in The Province newspaper, is intrigued by how easy it is for men like him to get the attention of the Vancouver daily.
The Sportfishing Defence Alliance is a coalition of organizations in British Columbia dealing with the rights of anglers, Mr. Otway said.
A web-based search turned up no recent mention of them, but the group was rallying the cry about lack of certainty for the industry due to changing regulations in 2000.
Mr. Otway was the recreational fisheries advisor ombudsman to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for 15 years.