Tofino’s fishing guides have launched a local chapter of the West Coast Fishing Guide Association and will focus on supporting local salmon enhancement efforts. (Jeremy Koreski photo)

Tofino fishing guides angling for enhanced safety and salmon habitats

Tofino’s charter fishing guides have launched a local West Coast Fishing Guide Association chapter.

Local fishers have hooked onto an exciting new opportunity to promote ocean safety and enhance wild salmon populations.

Tofino’s charter fishing guides recently launched a local chapter of the West Coast Fishing Guide Association.

The WCFGA represents Vancouver Island’s sport fishing guides and works to ensure professionalism and safety on the water as well as strict conservation and stewardship ethics through education and dialogue.

“Our motivation for launching the Tofino chapter of the West Coast Fishing Guide association was to help organize our licensed charter fishing fleet, to offer a larger, unified voice when it comes to appropriate representation of the interests of our new membership,” the local chapter’s chair Blake Klopfenstein told the Westerly News in an email.

“Establishing a collective voice will allow all of our members to have a say in larger decisions that might affect our industry both locally and provincially.”

Klopfenstein said the new chapter’s roster currently boasts 25 local guides, many of whom were already active members of the WCFGA.

“The key with the new chapter is to address local concerns among licensed charter operators specific to Clayoquot Sound or key decisions that might affect fishing in our area,” he said.

He added the WCFGA promotes improved knowledge and awareness around safe boating practices and keeping up to date on Transport Canada regulations.

“Keeping our industry safe is paramount with our participating membership, encouraging proper vessel maintenance, carrying current marine first aid certification, not to mention all the other required certifications to operate vessels commercially,” he said.

The young chapter has pegged restoration and recovery of Clayoquot Sound’s wild salmon stocks as a top priority and its members recently donated $7,000 to the Clayoquot Sound Wild Salmon Fund to support local enhancement, research and restoration efforts.

“We, as charter operators in Tofino, acknowledge many threatened salmon stocks locally in Clayoquot Sound, that need help with restoring stocks to historic levels,” Klopfenstein said.

“Taking a proactive role in local conservation and stewardship for our local salmon is what really makes this group stand out. Raising thousands of dollars annually, not to mention routine volunteering on various boards such as the Clayoquot Salmon Round Table [and] the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, our local guides are really standing up for our fisheries and our local salmon.”

The Clayoquot Sound Wild Salmon Fund is managed by the Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable, which is comprised of a wide variety of stakeholders including sport, aboriginal and commercial fishers as well as environmental stewardship groups and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“Sport fishing guides have taken a proactive role in supporting the sustainability of the fishery resource,” said the roundtable’s co-chair Saya Masso through a recent media release. “Even before the formation of the Tofino WCFGA and the Clayoquot Sound Wild Salmon Fund, many local guides were donating funds to support local enhancement efforts.”

The fund’s financial administration is being handled by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.

“As a community foundation, the CBT will manage the endowment fund and direct the income towards prioritized projects,” said CBT executive director Rebecca Hurwitz through the release. “It’s exciting to see the WCFGA working with all of the stakeholders to take action. As guides, they are both stewards and spokespeople for the salmon ecosystem.”

More information about the fund can be found at http://clayoquotbiosphere.org/clayoquot-sound-wild-salmon-fund.

Klopfenstein said locals, tourists and guides have a lot to be proud when it comes to the fishing experiences offered on the West Coast and that the enhanced communication created by the local WCFGA chapter will help ensure solid seasons to come.

“Ultimately, the whole West Coast community benefits by promoting and sharing this knowledge as we’ve all become both stewards of our fisheries and role models for other anglers on the water, promoting ethical fishing practices, cooperation with Department of Federal Fisheries Regulations and essential boating safety protocol and regulations as set out by Transport Canada,” he said.