Thursday, May 28, 2009

BC Chamber of Commerce AGM, Prince Rupert

Last weekend the NCSA travelled down to the BC Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting. This year it was being held, in of all places, Prince Rupert.
We assisted the Smithers Chamber of Commerce in presenting a draft policy focusing on maintaining a vibrant sportfishery in our region. It was also a great opportunity to advocate for steelhead and publicize the wasteful bycatch of them in the commercial fishery.

The AGM Policy Sessions were fast paced with delegates presumed to have studied the materials well before the meetings. Votes are tallied by the Chair's eye or actually counted depending on how close it appears.

Needless to say, a policy advocating the sportfishery, the conservation of steelhead, and the proposal of shifting the sockeye catch to inriver selective locations was not readily accepted by some delegates. The Prince Rupert Chamber reps could not agree to any measures that appeared to be 'anti-commercial fishing'. Several other community reps with commercial fishing interests also voiced concern. But really it seemed they were just against anything they thought would be harmful to their commercial industry.
After some 'wordsmithing' changes to our original policy and a very close vote, we are pleased to report the policy passed. This is significant in that the BC Chamber Policy manual is presented to government and actually gets serious consideration.
We feel the real value was in having steelhead and fishery management being discussed on such a prominent stage, plus having all the regional Chambers ( Houston, Smithers, Terrace, Burns Lake) all engaged in the value of steelhead discussion.
All in all, a very successful event. A big thank you goes out to the Smithers Chamber folks for putting forth such a policy and advocating for steelhead and fishery management. Also thanks to those regional Chambers who voted for the policy.

Here is the press release from the Smithers Chamber of Commerce.

Press Release
From the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce
May 25, 2009

The Smithers District Chamber of Commerce was successful in presenting a policy resolution at the 57th Annual British Columbia Chamber of Commerce AGM and Conference, held May 21 to 23, 2009 in Prince Rupert. Over 140 delegates, representing 133 individual Chambers, met for two days in policy review meetings to discuss various resolutions including the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce’s “Policy for Maintaining a Vibrant Sport Fishing Industry in British Columbia, which passed at the meeting.

The policy’s preamble included the continuing negative impact of the mixed stock fishery at the mouth of the Skeena River, where steelhead are caught incidentally by fisheries targeting sockeye and pink salmon. On average it sees from 1/3 to 1/2 of the returning steelhead in any given year killed unnecessarily as “by catch”. The preamble stated that the associated sport fishery, that is dependent on the returning steelhead, are negatively affected and, as the steelhead sport fishery is a major economic contributor to BC’s economy, management of this resource must consider sport fishing and its associated tourism industry in regulations committed to increased annual returns of Skeena River steelhead and salmon.

The resolution recommended that the federal government acknowledge the importance of the sport fishing tourism industry in fisheries management in British Columbia and that the Ministry of Environment support a Province-wide Steelhead Recovery Plan.

David McKenzie, president of the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce, stated, “This is an extremely important issue as businesses throughout the north are dependent on the health of the sport fishing industry. We listened to their concerns about declining species, unable to maintain their cycle under existing fishing pressure, and advocated on their behalf. When the BC Chamber of Commerce presents this issue to the government we feel confident this will result in improved stock abundance and the enhancement of angling opportunities and economic benefits in our region.”

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