Monday, August 25, 2008

Steelhead Escapement

Here is a graph presenting the historical Skeena steelhead escapement up to 2008.
(Graph courtesy/copyright BC Ministry of Environment)

As of today, the Tyee Steelhead Index is at 117.70 and multiplied by the 245 Index 'multiplier' this equals an estimated 28,836 steelhead past Tyee.
The estimated escapement requirement for full seeding of the Skeena and tribs is 32,000 steelhead. So, even in what appears to be an improved run strength year, we are not even at the minimum spawning escapement requirement yet. Dont forget First Nations FSC requirements also lower the number of steelhead once they make it past Tyee.

And when DFO and the Independant Science Panel tell us there is no conservation concern with Skeena steelhead we should remind them to look at 2007's Index of just 70.84 which equalled only 17,150 steelhead making it past Tyee....just over half of the minimum spawning requirement. How can fishery managers and scientists state 'no conservation concern' or 'sustainably managed' in light of facts like this?
To reach the minimum spawning requirement goal of 32,000 steelhead, the Tyee Index would have to reach a value of 131. Since 1956 this number has only been reached 10 times. Doesnt exactly sound like sustainable fisheries management to constantly not allow a species or stock to reach its minimum spawning requirements does it? But, as the ISRP Report states a stock can be chronically depressed and still not be driven to extinction....and this is where our steelhead stocks a constantly depressed state.

Moreover, what about the disproportionate negative impacts of commercial interception on the early run component? If the overall stock can be described as depressed, the front end of the run must be characterized as at some form of critical level. Or is the constant erosion and loss of these early timed steelhead just mutely accepted by fishery managers as the 'cost of doing business' when focussing on exploiting enhanced sockeye?
Hopefully, we can tie this post to the post about complacency...and remind people that Skeena steelhead need alot of change in management practices in order to be headed in the right direction. Protecting the aggregate stock is important, but rebuilding the early run component should be a paramount concern also. We feel the Provincial Policy of 'Conservation Plus' should be fully recognized and integrated into future management regimes. Measures should be integrated into the management of the marine commercial fishery to eliminate the bycatch steelhead.

And lastly, just think of our earlier post about gillnet impact numbers and those 10-15 thousand dead steelhead. Not only would their numbers add immensely to the escapement graph, but remember those steelhead are from the important front end of the run. These are the fish that arrive the earliest and stay the longest thereby providing the most accessibility to the sportfishery? Plus, these are the fish who have born the brunt of the commercial effort over decades. If we could rebuild those early runs it would be highly beneficial to both the fish and the sportfishing economy.
Graph courtesy/copyright BC Ministry of Environment

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