Submitter: Robert Fearn
Date Submitted: March 19, 2011
Humans have slowly decimated the natural resources on British Columbia's south coast. Overfishing, logging, and government inaction have contributed to the decline of salmon and salmon habitat. DFO is responsible for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Fraser sockeye fishery, and it must demonstrate wisdom in protecting this natural resource.
I am an old timer that grew up on this coast. As a youngster I lived near the West Vancouver waterfront and we used to catch Grilse, in just a few minutes, before breakfast. I watched plentiful crabs walking on the ocean bottom off the dock at Caulfield Cove. Nobody can do either of those things today. In the early 1960's I flew helicopters on this coast which was a unique vantage point. I watched Alcan flood a vast area in central BC without building so much as a simple fish ladder or cutting down a single old growth tree that was going to be flooded out of existence. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Forest Service did nothing. For the most part I observed a plentiful world in harmony but I could see that rapacious appetites for more and more were going to wreck this abundance.
This has now come to pass. There is not a patch of old growth forest on the south coast and most fish species are mere shadows of themselves. In human terms it has taken a long time to decimate this bounty but we have done it. In 1792 Captain Vancouver made two notes in his logbook that I have always remembered. When he was just off Point Grey, which is now the entrance to Vancouver harbour he wrote, "Whales spouting in all directions". Another comments was, "life on this coast could be no hardship as fish is always to be got".
So things have changed a great deal. The large whales are gone and getting a fish there is and less likely. All this occurred under the less than watchful eye of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I have seen logging operations wreck salmon spawning areas and when I complained to the DFO, they did nothing. I have seen seiners catch so many salmon that they couldn't get them in them in their very large boats. The surplus was released, dead, back into the ocean. The DFO did nothing. I have seen the DFO fly up and down rivers, counting fish, in helicopters costing $800 per hour. It should be obvious to them that counting does nothing to restore fish stocks and that this money could be much better spent. I have seen small designated salmon rivers blocked with logging debris for years and the DFO did nothing. Tragically there are many more examples like this.
It is true that we are all responsible for our environment but it is also true that the DFO has always had THE responsibility to ensure the long term sustainability of this amazing resource. Instead they seem to think that their responsibility is the profitability of various fishing interests. For reasons I never understood many of those fishing interests put excessive profits before the long term viability of the resource that supports them.
The DFO must use wisdom and demonstrate a willingness to protect this natural resource in the long term. If they do not we will have a problem plagued fishing industry based on using 4 pounds of seafood from a distant land to create 1 pound of seafood that we will ship to a distant land.
That is not a sustainable future.