Councillors in Sechelt have decided not to act, for now at least, on calls from the Davis Bay-Wilson Creek-Selma Park Community Association to ban fishing and crabbing from the Davis Bay wharf.
The wharf has been a flashpoint for complaints about illegal crabbing for the past two years, and conflict between people using the wharf for fishing and crabbing and others who use it for sightseeing and swimming was the main topic at the association’s Nov. 13 meeting.
The meeting, which was attended by representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Conservation Officer Service and Mayor Darnelda Siegers, ended with a resolution that “[Sechelt] council be respectfully asked to ban all fishing and crabbing off the Davis Bay wharf until further notice, with a review in 18 months.”
The resolution was forwarded to Sechelt council for discussion at the Nov. 20 meeting. An accompanying letter said the motion was “in response to the continued illegal crabbing and fishing observed by residents on a constant basis and the safety issues that also arise. It was evident from our meeting with council, DFO and Conservation that there is considerable local concern about this issue and unanimous support for a temporary ban on fishing and crabbing.”
The wharf underwent a major $500,000 restoration and upgrade in 2014, funded by government grants and community donations, but Siegers confirmed to council the district does not own the wharf, making a ban difficult.
“We lease it from the province. It was built in 1923 and leased to Standard Oil and we took over the lease in the late ’80s… They own it, we agree to maintain it,” she said.
Siegers said as a designated “working marine pier” the permitted uses include fishing and crabbing. “Ironically it is not zoned for recreational use and swimming is not listed as a permitted use.”
When Sechelt council last addressed the possibility of restricting fishing and crabbing on the wharf in September, Coun. Matt McLean was among those who spoke against the idea.
At Wednesday’s meeting, McLean said he now felt restrictions are “the only way forward.”
“People feel uncomfortable using this public space and that’s not OK,” McLean said. “I don’t like reducing access to public space, but this is where we’re at now… If we do restrict crabbing and fishing here, it’s a direct result of DFO’s failure to earn public trust that they can enforce fishing licences and fishing rules.”
Council has written the federal fisheries minister asking for the reopening of the DFO field office in Pender Harbour.
After considerable discussion, council opted to ask the harbour committee to work with the community association to arrange a fact-finding visit to the wharf and come back with recommendations.
– With files from Sophie Woodrooffe