To the Editor,
For the last two years fishing in the Port Alberni salmon derby on Labour Day weekend has been poor. Yet two weeks before fishing was good. Sportfishers don’t understand why Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) opens the Alberni Inlet to seiners and gillnetters just days before a derby that brings thousands of tourist dollars into our community.
Both the seiners and gillnetters are not groups that spend any money in Port Alberni except for the launching fee.
There was also a First Nations fishery opening just days before the derby.
The people who spend the most money are avid weekend sportfishers who come into town and dine out, fill up their boats with fuel, shop at our stores and lodge with our hotels/ motels—supporting Port Alberni and Barkley Sound businesses. Yet this group of fishers is restricted by stupid rules, like catch limits for sockeye and Chinook (two per day). The coho limit at the time was four per day and our total catch limit for Chinook was lowered to 10 fish per year from 30.
After the salmon derby I spoke with many local and visiting anglers and the common complaint was about the low numbers of fish. Many people that weekend didn’t even catch a fish, and those that did caught very few—most well under their limit. Our tourists come from all over B.C. and Alberta, and in other years from the United States. My guests came from Victoria, Vancouver, Kelowna and Calgary; after the low derby numbers this year (they have been here twice before) they are thinking of not coming back.
Port Alberni needs tourists, who spend money when they are here.
Tourists and locals I have talked to suggested if DFO does not change its plan to hold commercial fishery openings until after the three-day derby, our tourists will not be coming back. Sportfishers are not adequately represented at the fisheries roundtable; our current representatives are not doing their jobs.
Sportfishers who want change must complain to DFO; phone, e-mail or write letters. Every voice counts.