Although the COSEWIC assessments for the Cultus and Sakinaw populations make it clear that those populations are at very low levels and are at risk of biological extinction, adding them to the List as “endangered” would lead to severe consequences for the south coast British Columbia (BC) sockeye salmon fishing sector and for the coastal communities, including first nations, who depend on salmon fishing. It would trigger automatic prohibitions on killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking those species, unless permits authorizing a person to engage in those activities could be issued by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans under the Act or the activities affecting the two populations are permitted by a recovery strategy, an action plan or a management plan and are also authorized under an Act of Parliament.
A financial analysis, informed through consultations with aboriginal organizations and various stakeholders, based on projections of the impact of listing, over the current four-year cycle (2004-2007), of BC Fraser River sockeye salmon was completed. The analysis shows that if those populations continue to decline, the gross value of the south coast BC sockeye fishing sector would be reduced by approximately $125 million over the current four-year cycle, as a result of the severe fishery restrictions required to reduce mortality on the Cultus and Sakinaw populations to a level that would give some probability of their survival or recovery, consistent with a listing under the Act. That reduction would be over and above the approximately $75 million reduction in gross value to the fishing sector that will be experienced as a result of current measures implemented by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to protect those sockeye salmon populations. The fishing sector includes the commercial and recreational industry as well as first nation’s food, social and ceremonial fishing. Moreover, there would be consequent impacts on coastal communities who are dependent on the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery. Approximately 25% of commercial fishers are aboriginal people.
The consequences from listing could be so severe that, considering the restrictions necessary to protect those populations, there would likely be no marine commercial fishery on Fraser River sockeye salmon in three of those four years. In all four years, the food, social and ceremonial fishing requirements of many first nations who harvest in marine waters would likely not be achieved. After two years in the four-year cycle, the food, social and ceremonial fishing requirements of first nations in the Fraser River area below the Vedder River would likely not be met. Processors heavily dependant on sockeye salmon would also be negatively impacted. Those impacts on the south coast BC sockeye salmon fishery and the coastal communities would extend with lasting effects to future four-year cycles of Fraser River sockeye salmon.
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