Andrew MacDonald has been fishing the Squamish area’s rivers and streams for seven or eight years. He moved here a couple of years ago largely because of the recreational opportunities available here — including the terrific fishing.
But this year he has noticed a trend he’d like to see curbed: An increasing amount of garbage along the shores of the lower Mamquam and Squamish rivers, near the confluence of the two waterways. The trash — water bottles, cigarette packages, bottles and cans, etc. — has reached the point where he and his fishing buddy have said to each other, “‘We could come down here with a garbage bag and fill it up pretty quickly,’” he told The Chief on Aug. 20.
MacDonald and his friend did, in fact, load up their fishing bags on their most recent outing and pack out what they could. Doing that, and reporting on the experience, is just his way of trying to help control a problem he thinks is entirely preventable.
This summer, the shores of local streams have been busier than usual, MacDonald said. Perhaps that’s at least partly because the Fraser River fish stocks are more sparse than usual and Lower Mainland fishers have been looking for greener pasture in the Squamish watershed.
It’s in the best interest of all recreational fishers to keep rivers, streams and shorelines free of human debris, he said.
“I don’t know if it’s the city folks, or maybe it’s a bunch of locals,” MacDonald said. “It just seems like such a contradiction. You’re ruining the river.”
Sgt. Peter Busink of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service agrees. Part of his job is to ensure compliance with all the fishing regulations. Littering in a stream or on the shore is a violation covered under B.C.’s Environmental Management Act. Violation tickets come with a $115 fine.
Busink said he’s not sure but that the poor early-season salmon runs in the Fraser River system may be one reason more recreational fishers are coming to the Squamish area this season. Retention of all salmon species was banned from Mission to Hope on Aug. 15 to preserve dwindling stocks.
“I can’t speak to the reasons why we’re seeing large numbers of fishermen, but this is definitely the largest number of anglers that we’ve seen in recent history,” he said.
As a result, Busink said officers have noticed an increase in the amount of trash left along area streams this year.
“There is a litter issue, which is very difficult to enforce unless we actually see people littering. It is something we’ve noticed this year, especially with the high number of anglers,” he said.
One of the regulations COs have been enforcing this season is a ban on retention of all species of salmon upstream from the CN Rail bridge on the Mamquam River.
The current pink salmon fishery on the Squamish and its tributaries closes on Monday (Sept. 2), he said.
“I do know that there’s been a significant number of tickets and warnings for lack of compliance on all of the offences that we’ve talked about,” Busink said. “The litter is a significant issue and the low level of angling compliance during this pink salmon fishery is another.”
Longtime local fisher Clifford Lang on Monday (Aug. 26) said he’s concerned about fishers letting their dogs run off-leash on the shoreline. Despite signs indicating that dogs must be on-leash and avoid disturbing the fish, “people want to let their dogs run free, but when they get a sniff of that, they just go.”
To report a potential fishing, hunting or environmental violation, please phone the 24-hour Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277. For a summary of B.C. fishing regulations, visit www.fishing.gov.bc.ca/