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July 16th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 28
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Pundits encourage anglers to celebrate National Fishing Week
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
submitted photo
Fisherman on Crowsnest River east of Hillcrest.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Though it might seem old-fashioned to people of the digital age, the recreational fishing industry wants to remind you that getting out doors and casting a line is still an option.
“You would think that in Canada, we wouldn’t need to promote recreational fishing, it’s such a part of our culture that everyone does it.” says Mike Melnik, National Fishing Week media coordinator who counts the legendary Bob Izumi as his onetime fishing buddy. “But we’ve seen research that indicates that people who loved fishing as kids got away from it as adults.”
The Canadian National Sport Fishing Foundation is sponsoring National Fishing Week, which runs July 5-13.
The foundation represents businesses that make their living from the recreational fishing industry, says Melnik, including boat and tackle manufacturers, outfitters and charter companies.
“People need the encouragement to shut down the electronics and go fishing. Take a break, turn off the screen and bond with your kids and your family,” he adds.
According to the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association (CSIA), anglers spent over $8 billion dollars in 2010 on food and lodging, special vehicles, boating equipment and other expenses.
But it’s not all rainbow trout and sunshine, says Alberta Fish & Game president Gord Poirier, who says the province’s fisheries could be facing existential threats.
The oil and gas industry, habitat loss, gravel mining and other factors threaten the province’s fisheries. Even Alberta’s provincial fish, the bull trout is threatened.
“We’re on a knife edge here,” says Poirier.
In 2012, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COESWIC) declared the bull trout, Alberta’s provincial fish, at-risk.
The species is found in every major watershed on the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. The province recognized that the species was in trouble in 1994, which led to a recovery plan and fishing restrictions.
Despite these efforts, the species does not seem to be recovering, says Poirier.
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“A lot of it is habitat loss due to road building,” says Poirier. “They leave hanging culverts over rivers which prevent fish from going upstream. Road builders like everything level. But with a hanging culvert, the creek is dropped two feet in the distance across the road and fish won’t jump into that.”
A report by the Canadian Journal of Forest Research says hanging culverts on Alberta’s industrial roadways are fragmenting fish communities.
One half of the culverts surveyed by the 2003 study were hanging. The researcher’s estimated that several thousand of these culverts were fragmenting tens of thousands of streams in Alberta’s boreal forest and that these numbers would likely increase with continued road development and aging culverts.
Gravel mining is another industry that is damaging the province’s fisheries, says Poirier. According to the Water Matters Society of Alberta, gravel mines near aquifers expose streams to solar heating, which can end up raising the temperature of the water. This is bad news for cool water fish like the brown trout, brook trout and mountain whitefish.
Gravel is an important building material and in booming Alberta the demand for gravel and sand is increasing. The Alberta Sand & Gravel Association, which represents the province’s sand and gravel operators, says that in the past 60 years, the per capita consumption of sand and gravel has increased from 3.5 to 12 tonnes per year annually.
The province’s oil and gas industry has a huge demand for many of the factors threatening the fisheries including industrial roads, gravel mines and access to water for unconventional energy development such as fracking.
Fracking could have a devastating effect on Alberta’s fisheries if it is handled incorrectly, says Poirier.
“That shale gas up there has possibilities of being a total disaster,” he says. “The water usage for fracking, it could just about wipe out all the fishing on the east slopes of the Rockies if its handled wrong.”
In February, Alberta’s NDP leader Brian Mason claimed that Alberta’s fracking industry was almost completely unregulated, saying the number of hydraulic fracturing licences granted by the province had increased by 647 per cent in 2012 to a total of 1,516 wells.
Melnik says that anglers should taking a more proactive approach to preserving the province’s fisheries.
“The people who take care of the resource today, whether it’s fishing or hunting, are those who fish and hunt,” says Melnik. “They’re the ones who give money to organizations to help with stream rehabilitation or species enhancement. They’re the ones who have a stake in it.”
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July 16th ~ Vol. 84 No. 28
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