The Squamish fishing community is praising the provincial and federal governments for banning all angling in the Lower Mamquam River to protect vulnerable fish stocks.
Effective Aug. 22 through Sept. 30, angling is banned downstream of the CN Railway Bridge to the river's confluence with the Squamish River.
"The closure has been put in place to protect fish stocks at a time when they are vulnerable due to low flows," read a B.C. government release. "The low water and aggregation of fish in the area has led to conservation and compliance issues, and will protect both bull trout and salmon populations."
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has also closed the Lower Mamquam. The remaining sections of the river have already been closed to angling. Additional closures may occur if conditions warrant them, the release stated.
"I definitely commend the DFO for closing the Mamquam because the water levels have gotten low and the fish there don't need to be disturbed," said Sea to Sky Fisheries Roundtable member Dave Brown.
The move comes on the heels of a DFO decision this month to close a commercial pink salmon fishery on Howe Sound early after it was discovered there wasn't "the abundance of fish" initially expected.
The DFO was criticized by local anglers and conservation groups after the department was warned in advance that the Squamish River system's low pink salmon numbers could not sustain a commercial fishery.
Funding to the DFO has been slashed considerably during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's time in office, significantly limiting the department's ability to enforce proper regulations in the region, said Trout Country Fishing Guides' Cortney Brown.
"There's only so much they can do with the funding they have, and they do a great job," she said. "We see (fisheries officers) on the river from time to time but we don't have as much enforcement as we need right now. We need the presence to not only educate everybody but to also crack down on the illegal things we see happening."
With the recent growth of Squamish's sport fishing industry, more fishermen are hitting the shores, and with that comes "more bad habits," said Brown.
"What happens when people get on the rivers is they get really excited about being out there, and we're happy to see everyone on the river, but they either don't know the rules or don't care to educate themselves on the rules," she added. "They're going out on the river and doing whatever they want: Leaving trash behind, intentionally snagging fish, and it's not a sustainable way to go about it."
Now Brown has teamed up with Edith Tobe of the Squamish River Watershed Society and local biologist Stephanie Lingard to erect signage at the Lower Squamish River access point that includes information on proper angling practices, fish identification and local regulations.
Brown also hosted an Angler Awareness Day this month she said was well received.
"The community feedback was really positive," she said. "We had anglers coming up who were very upset with what they were seeing on all of the different fisheries and they were really excited I was there."
To report fisheries violations to the DFO, call 1-800-465-4336.
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