First Nations, fishing groups and the City of Chilliwack want jet boats banned from Fraser River tributaries

Following the violent assault of a fisherman by men on a jet boat on the Vedder River on July 24, several interested parties are again talking about banning or at least restricting boats on tributaries of the Fraser River .

A video shared with Progress showed a jet boat speeding past several people fishing in a narrow channel of the Vedder near the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve. The boat came to a sudden stop, landed on the gravel bar and three men got out, one of them punched a fisherman several times in the head.

No one has yet been charged with the assault although The Progress has learned the names of the four men on board.

But it was the actions of the person operating the jet boat that sparked widespread discussion on social media. Behind the scenes, fishing groups, First Nations and the city of Chilliwack want to see restrictions.

“Given the multi-use aspect of the Vedder in summer and fall, which includes all types of recreation and not just fishing, there must be restrictions on any hazardous activity,” said Rod Clapton, president of BC Federation of Drift Fishers.

“Motorboats, including jet boats, should be limited to 10 kilometers per hour over the Highway 1 bridge.”

Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said the issue of jet boats in the Vedder and Sumas rivers was an ongoing concern.

“I don’t fish as much as I used to but I remember jet boats going by when we were in a little aluminum boat checking a net and they almost swamped us and didn’t even throw us a second glance,” he said. said.

“Some of these guys are just looking for a place to step up. If there were more responsible people behind the controls of these boats, that might be a different story.

Silver and Clapton and others are primarily concerned about the damage caused by jet boats to salmon habitat.

In 2020, Sumas First Nation submitted an application under the Vessel Operation Restriction Regulations to Transport Canada. The claim complained that jet boats and other watercraft were moving through the shallow reaches of the Sumas/Vedder/Chilliwack Rivers during fish migration and during spawning season.

But Transport Canada denied the request.

“I’m not sure people are aware of the extent of the disruption these boats are causing to spawning grounds,” Silver said, adding that the fact that his First Nation had to ask for boating restrictions and it was denied goes to against US grain. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promises regarding government-to-government relations.

“It’s frustrating when people talk about reconciliation and federal legislation and UNDRIP, and different things in the supreme courts and we haven’t seen any work on the ground, or in the water of somewhere else.

“We hear the words, but we think it’s time, for the good of the fish, that we need to act.”

City hall has been exploring options to reduce boat speeds on the Vedder River, according to operations manager Glen MacPherson, but regulating boat speeds on rivers and lakes is a federal responsibility.

In 2021, the city conducted a consultation including an online survey on the subject.

“At this time, city staff continue to investigate possible solutions to improve boat safety along the Vedder River, including working with federal agencies regarding possible speed restrictions,” MacPherson said in a statement. a press release sent by e-mail.

Clapton said the issue is a priority for the Lower Fraser Collaborative Table (LFCT) whose members include the First Nations Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, major provincial angling associations and Zone E commercial fishers.

“Discussions are currently underway between angling organizations, DFO and the City of Chilliwack to seek immediate solutions, as this recent appalling incident has exposed a major safety issue and demonstrated the violence that can arise,” Clapton said.

He said the topic was on the agenda for a forum to be held on September 26.

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Earnest A. Martinez