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Cutbacks create ‘poachers’ paradise’

The new 19,000-square-foot home for WestSound Orthopaedics promises to be on the cutting edge of medical offices. - Architect’s rendering by Rice Fergus Miller
The new 19,000-square-foot home for WestSound Orthopaedics promises to be on the cutting edge of medical offices.
— image credit: Architect’s rendering by Rice Fergus Miller

Cutbacks in DFO enforcement staff have created a ‘poachers’ paradise’ in B.C.. according to the BC Wildlife Federation.

But senior DFO enforcement official Randy Nelson says 30 new officers, the first hired in four years, have been “fast-tracked” to make up the shortage of trained fisheries officers around the Pacific Region.

BCWF tidal water fisheries committee co-chair Ken Franzen says poaching may have become “rampant” around Prince Rupert last spring when enforcement officers were re-deployed to boost Fraser River patrols.

“Enforcement problems and poaching may be as bad, if not worse, on the Skeena as they are on the Fraser,” Franzen says. “The only difference is that DFO regional headquarters is in Vancouver and both senior Pacific Region staff and the Ottawa bureaucrats are focused on the Fraser.”

Committee co-chair, Ed George, says enforcement problems are not isolated to the north coast. 

“At a recent public meeting of the sport fishing advisory board, information presented showed that more than 55 officer weeks were redeployed from other south coast areas to the Fraser,” George says. “This report from DFO indicated that enforcement offices at Powell River, Pender Harbour and Gold River were closed for some three weeks last summer.”

Nelson says the Lower Fraser River has a higher priority than other watersheds because of the number of people using the resource, and for that reason enforcement staff was redeployed here.

But the 30 enforcement officers, who start training here in Chilliwack next week, will help ensure the north coast where vacancies have not been filled will not be left vulnerable to poachers.

“We do rely more and more on public assistance in helping us identify problems,” he adds, but like police officers can’t respond to every complaint.

The 30,000-member BCWF is calling for an expansion of the proposed Fraser River judicial inquiry to cover the entire Pacific Region and the ‘burgeoning bureaucracy’ in Ottawa.

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