By Steve Morrow
Seasons on the Dean come and go. From the rains of June to the dry days of July to the low flows of August. Winter rolls over the valley like a heavy blanket and the people disappear. The years come and go and conditions ebb and flow like currents in the river. Some years a few lucky fish squirt over the tidal flats into the Dean and other years, endless schools of nickel muscle swarm in.
But there is one constant. Every year, without exception, the nets descend on Area 8.
Area 8 is a government management area that includes some of the most productive waters of British Columbia’s central coast. It’s home to famed rivers like the Kimsquit, Bella Coola, Kwatna and of course the Dean. It’s part of the famed Great Bear Rainforest and the geographic heart of Canada’s pacific salmon belt.
The commercial fisherman that inhabit these regions eagerly await the runs of chinook and chum each summer. Commercial fishing is a way of life here and the backbone of many coastal communities. Few here argue its importance to the locals.
But the Area 8 fishery is a textbook example of mismanagement. A human enhanced run, the inflated schools of salmon provide increased economic opportunity and seem on the surface, hard to argue with. But more fish attract more attention and those wild stocks, the ones mother nature intended here, are subject to longer seasons with pressure that otherwise wouldn’t exist. One day openings quickly become two days and potentially three, and few boats become many, followed by many more.
Then in a perfect storm, on years of poor salmon returns in other regions, hungry commercial fisherman migrate into Area 8. More fishermen translate into more pressure for more openings and more non-target stocks are caught in the crosshairs. In short, even more steelhead die. Often a lot more.
For those of us who love steelhead, and specifically Dean River steelhead, it’s a tragedy that unfolds often. Fishless days dwarf the successes and those moments of magic are interrupted by sad catches with torn backs and raw sides.
We are reduced to fishing for the “lucky ones” who won their battles with nets.
Help save the Dean River steelhead.
Some things you can do include emailing Sue Farlinger (Sue.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dan Wagner (Danny.Wagner@dfo-mpo.gc.ca) managers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans or support organizations fighting the good fight like the Native Fish Society, Skeena Wild or the Steelhead Society of British Columbia. Let em know what’s on your mind.
Steve Morrow Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com email@example.com Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!