British Columbia

Lower Fraser ban on salmon fishing hits sport fishery hard

After reporting a historically low run of Fraser River sockeye, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has cut off recreational anglers from all salmon fishing on the river.

'The fishing fraternity is very, very disappointed'

A red-coloured salmon is visible beneath shallow water. Pebbles and logs are visible.
Sockeye salmon are returning to the Fraser River in record low numbers according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

After reporting a historically low run of Fraser River sockeye, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has cut off recreational anglers from all salmon fishing on the river.

Lower Mainland anglers claim the decision is overly cautious.

"The fishing fraternity is very, very disappointed," Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance spokesman Rod Clapton told CBC's The Early Edition, "We just got our fishery open four or five days ago, and now it's closed again."

Clapton says there is no need to ban all salmon fishing in order to protect sockeye.

"If you've got speeders on the freeway, are you going to shut down the whole freeway?" He said. "We have a selective chinook fishery that we've demonstrated in the past has virtually no impact on sockeye stocks." 

A recreational fisherman holds a 24-pound chinook salmon he caught during a guided fishing tour. (The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

He wants fisheries like that one, which don't specifically target sockeye, to remain open.

Too risky, says the DFO. 

"There are impacts from incidental harvests, people targeting other species and ending up with a sockeye on their hook, and even though the sockeye would be released, there would be impacts on their survival," Jennifer Nener, the area director for the Lower Fraser fishery, told CBC's B.C. Almanac.

In explaining the DFO's decision, she points to the initial projection of a 2.2 million sockeye run.

"The forecast for this year was low to begin with," says Nener, "Currently we're looking at a total run size in the order of about a million, which is the lowest that we have seen."

Clapton says he and his colleagues appreciate the DFO's concern.

'We feel there are other options'

"If it's required, we do support the closure because of the low numbers," says Clapton. "Though we feel there are other options."

He says if the DFO had worked more closely with the sport fisherery leading up to salmon season, the situation might not be so dire.

"I just hope this is a wake-up call for DFO to start working with our communities to ensure that selective fishing is practised by all, and maybe this won't be quite as serious in the future."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?