Safety for Lower Fraser river recreational boaters and anglers:
Hello Fraser River boaters and fishermen;
Safety comes first on the water. The opportunity for anglers to enjoy sport fishing on the Fraser River is very special here in the Fraser Valley in so many ways. The 1600 km long Fraser River has been shared by anglers and commercial operators for decades.
Traffic conflicts between boaters and commercial vessels have increased recently and this requires immediate solutions before a serious accident occurs. A combined usage can be done in a safe and respectful way. However, the potential dangers are very real and could be very serious if not understood and respected.
The information provided here is to allow all parties to be safe while boating on the Fraser River for recreational and commercial use.
The Fraser provides tremendous opportunities to the angling community and it is highly utilized for commercial transportation of gravel, timber and other commodities.
The river is very powerful and it changes constantly with river levels, tides and currents. The challenges for the commercial operators are complex and often stressful as they are responsible for navigating through difficult and potentially very dangerous situations. They have very little time to make critical decisions to avoid expensive accidents and serious threats to human life. Federal legislation is very clear with respect to navigational channels in that they are designated for commercial vessels to provide them with full right-of-way and priority when under tow.
It is the responsibility of all boaters to abide by the laws and be very aware of the rules, the dangers and protocols.
There has been unfortunately, a number of situations where boaters are either not aware of the rules or the danger, and what the consequences would be when not respecting commercial operations. Recreational and angling guide operators have to step up. During high water the danger level increases exponentially, leaving very little time for corrective measures.
For your safety, while anchoring in the river, be aware of your surroundings and be prepared, in advance to take quick action to avoid disastrous consequences. Every person on board needs to be watching for floating debris, such as very large and dangerous trees or logs in addition to tugboats and commercial activity. Taking precautionary measures and immediate action is the best way to avoid danger and confrontations.
Pay attention and be alert while on board, especially while being anchored.
A recommended quick release system and buoy for your anchor is advantageous to avert a quickly developing and dangerous situation. Tugboats may use a horn message that is telling you to pull up and clear the way. Clearing your boat from the navigational channel is not optional. You are legally bound to respond and clear out of the shipping channel immediately.
It is important to be listening for horn signals from tugs approaching from upstream. Radio contact is an option for radio users. Channel 69 is regularly used by tugboat captains, and you can always hail tugboats on Channel 16 by using the tugboat’s name, or description and location if you cannot identify the vessel’s name. If you are uncertain about the corrective actions, pick up your anchor and move out of the areas that are used by the tugs. It is not acceptable to confront or debate with the commercial operators – they have the right of way. The are professionally licensed operators with huge liabilities if things go wrong. You do not want to be responsible for creating confusion or accidents as it could be very costly.
Full accountability is now a real outcome for anyone that ignores the message. If anyone witnesses unsafe or unacceptable behaviour, report it to the authorities while documenting the occurrence. Boat numbers, photos and description is helpful along with names and witnesses to address this very serious issue.
The bottom line is that failure to end vessel confrontations will result in time and area closures to anchored vessels. Please enjoy the river, stay safe, and be respectful to all boaters out there.