Give Us A Sign

In the Province of British Columbia the organization responsible for delivering the freshwater fisheries management program is the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations or FLNRO. No small part of that Ministry’s mandate is maintaining effective regulations governing recreational fishing activity.

The method or process chosen by FLNRO to interface with the sport fishing community in that regard consists of a two layered system whereby representatives of the various recreational fishery community groups meet with FLNRO staff at regular intervals. The first layer operates at the regional (call it local) level in at least some regions of the province (e.g. Skeena, South Coast). Existing and proposed regulations are discussed and, supposedly, passed on to the second tier of the process. That second level, the Provincial Angling Advisory Team, is a group that includes representatives of all the prominent freshwater sport fishing advocacy groups in the province. They meet twice each year. If there has ever been any linkage between whatever discussion may have occurred at a regional or first tier level and the agenda of a second tier meeting, I have never been able to find it.

One might assume there is a track record of the accomplishments of these groups, something that gives evidence of their efficacy. Unfortunately that is not the case. Having participated on that provincial level group until resigning in frustration over how much time and energy was being volunteered for no useful purpose, I can speak directly to that point. Good, well thought out proposals were advanced and numerous suggestions made around how they might best be pursued. Heads nodded in agreement and the minutes occasionally reflected the discussion reasonably well. Nothing ever came of any of it though. Six months later another call would come out for agenda items and the wheel was up for reinvention one more time.

Lest anyone believe I overstate my case for the impotence of FLNRO and its PAAT process, consider the latest announcement that arrived on my screen on May 30.

Hello PAAT members,

Based on the preference by most PAAT members, we would like to propose holding the next PAAT meeting on Thursday June 15, 2017.

However, given there continues to be uncertainty around government, we would like to propose the following:

  • A ‘check in’ meeting where updates to action items (where appropriate) from the December 2016 PAAT meeting can be provided; and,
  • A discussion for PAAT members of things to pay attention to depending on where the government settles (government staff as observers). 

Given that, we also suggest that face to face attendance be optional.

Meeting details for those wanting to attend in person:

Date:                    Thursday June 15, 2017

Location:             Room 401, 4th Floor – 780 Blanshard Street, Victoria

Please let us know if you have any specific items for a draft agenda, which we can provide back by the end of next week (Friday June 9, 2017) confirming meeting details.

How’s that for instilling confidence in our collective ability to influence the future of sport fishery management by our agents?

Alright FLNRO, here’s a simple, straightforward item that has been highlighted on numerous occasions over more than a decade but has yet to see action. I’d suggest it is a perfect test of your commitment to actually deliver something tangible based on all the effort and advice provided by the many volunteers who have soldiered through your PAAT process. First, some mininal background.

Freshwater guiding has become a growth industry on virtually every river of British Columbia that has a marketable population of fish. Every freshwater species from sturgeon to bull trout and every anadromous species from chum salmon to steelhead are now being pursued with steadily increasing frequency. Apart from classified waters where there are specified limits to the number of angling guides who may be licensed, there are no restrictions on how many licenses your agency issues. On the steelhead front that leaves only a handful of the most famous rivers of the Skeena system with any constraints on commercial recreational fishing growth. And, even on those relatively few rivers, there are no restrictions on how many assistant guides can be licensed, how many boats can be operated, how big those boats can be, how many clients per day can be guided and, outside the peak classified waters season, there are no restrictions on how many rod days can be added on to those already busy classified rivers. Elsewhere throughout the steelhead range in British Columbia anyone who meets the minimal qualifications to hold an angling guide license can mount an operation on any water they like. There are no limits on time, scale, boats, area of operation……….nothing! As the commercial activity expands dramatically the fish supply is generally trending in the opposite direction. That is clearly the case with preferred species such as steelhead and chinook.

The rules governing angling guides are described in the Angling and Scientific Collection Regulations or BC Reg 125/90. Anyone who is interested in that material can examine it at:

http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/10_125_90#section13

These regulations have been essentially unaltered since enacted in 1990. They were perfectly adequate to address the angling guide scenario in the province when conceived and implemented in 1990. Twenty-seven years later they are long overdue for serious review. Some may argue the relatively minor amendments made since 1990 have been adequate to address classified waters but there is zero case to be made the regulations have kept pace with burgeoning angling guide traffic on unclassified waters.

So, here is your test Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Section 13 (3) of BC Reg 125/90 provides for the statutory authority to place conditions on an angling guide license issued to a guide on CLASSIFIED WATERS. That means a time or area of operation can be specified or even such things as the number of boats and where a guide might operate them can be limited. There are no provisions to limit any such thing on the multitude of unclassified waters where so much of the growth in guiding increasingly compromises all the rest of us forgotten resident anglers. The simple solution is to amend Section 13(3) to state that conditions can be placed on any angling guide license, not just those issued for classified waters. The eventual debate around where, when and how such a regulation might be applied need not consume time and energy today. Just create the tool that facilitates rules that can deal with the present.

That’s it FLNRO. Convince us you’re in the moment and understand what has been happening on your watch. Take this one simple step to rebuild at least some confidence that you are acting in the interests of those who continue to dedicate themselves to your PAAT process.

Comments 3

  • I am with you on this Bob. It is the number of assistant guides and boats that concerns me. With an ever increasing population the number of hunters, fishermen and outdoor recreationists is growing exponentially with the result that it has become much harder to find the solitude that many fishermen used to enjoy. I used to participate in some of these meetings about 25 years ago, but it seems to have been a wasted effort.

  • The bottom line is, when has government been able to manage steelhead effectively in British Columbia? The present situation is just a glaring example of how inept government is and how unconcerned government is in providing the residents of this province a recreational experience that is in keeping with the value of the resource. Guide licences should have never been issued on the Skeena system and now it is a mess with too many anglers vying for too few runs and too few fish. The fix to the problem is to buy out rod days and guides and reduce the number of non-residents by introducing a lottery system. Reducing the size and horsepower of jet boats wouldn’t hurt either. In my 45 years of fishing the Skeena system for steelhead, why do these proactive and necessary measures fall on deaf ears? Both federal and provincial government managers, those with the ability to effect positive change, should be ashamed of themselves for drawing a salary from the public purse. Colour me angry!

  • I think I will dress up as a dead O. mykiss in costume and see if they will let me in. Better still cover myself in Alaskan fish fertilizer the way some so called anglers do with their bait and lures and then see if they get the message!

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