fish cuts off 

By Loreth Beswetherick They haven’t seen it writing yet but the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery in Squamish has been told the on-off-on federal funding cuts to their salmon enhancement program are, once again, off. "We have been told verbally the cuts are off — for this year anyway," said Tenderfoot assistant manager Bill Wells. The federal fisheries ministry was planning to axe a total of $3 million from the provincial salmonid enhancement program at a time B.C. fish stocks are already at critical levels. The cuts represented a potential $25,000 loss in funding to the Tenderfoot hatchery, which stocks local rivers with up to 300,000 Coho salmon annually. Hardest hit would have been the Cheakamus River. Wells said traditionally Tenderfoot stocks the Cheakamus with about 150,000 Coho annually. The cuts would have meant scaling back to only 50,000. The Whistler Angling club felt this drop in local fish production could have an impact on sports fishing opportunities in the Sea to Sky region. The timing of the good news is critical to the program. Tenderfoot staff had already proceeded to collect eggs at reduced levels to reflect the funding cuts. Fish are currently swimming into the hatchery and are ready to spawn. Now, and into early January, is the only time to take the root stock, said Wells. "Then that’s pretty well it, so it was timely for us." The news has less to with federal Christmas goodwill than it has to do with reaction to public outcry. The cuts were first announced in November this year. However, after protests in writing to federal Fisheries Minister Herb Daliwall from local anglers and fishing guides, the Whistler municipality, the district of Squamish and MP John Reynolds late last month, it was announced the necessary funding had been found. Then, the federal fish ministry flip flopped and said the cuts were back on in December. Once again local anglers, fishing guides and environmentalists protested. Wells said he feels the fact Tenderfoot has managed to keep its funding this year is entirely attributable to public outcry. "I think it would have just gone ahead if people hadn’t stood up and said something about it." Dave Brown, a Whistler fishing guide and one of the loudest voices in fighting the cuts said the latest news should highlight the need to consult locals. He said crucial time was wasted in dallying over a decision but he did credit the federal fisheries ministry for keeping the doors open. Brown said at no stage was he told to stop bugging them with his pleas. He also said Reynolds played a key role in making sure local voices were heard at the federal level. Brown said, in addition to impacting the resort’s angling industry, the cuts in fish production would also have had a trickle-down environmental impact on the Cheakamus. There is no word yet on whether funds have been found only for the Tenderfoot Creek Hatchery or whether the entire $3 million in cuts for the province is off. Wells said he has not been told and federal fisheries ministry staff are off for the Christmas holidays.

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