Wednesday, February 18, 2009

NCSA Paper for SWI Meeting in Terrace

Here is a position paper the NCSA presented to the meeting of the Skeena Watershed Initiative's Congress held in Terrace Feb.16th

This paper was read and/or paraphrased to the 60 or so people in attendance. The audience comprised of DFO staff, MOE staff, First Nations from the coast and upriver, commercial fishermen, various conservation groups, and recreational fishermen.

As you can imagine, asking for the elimination of gillnetting in this type of setting can make for an interesting meeting.


Here is a condensed version of what the steelhead sectors concerns are in this fishery.

Main Concerns:

-the bycatch of Skeena system steelhead in the marine commercial fishery by gillnetters and seiners.

- steelhead bycatch and fish handling in the inriver selective commercial fishery

-management of weak or depressed wild salmon stocks such as chum and sockeye

-tighter regulation and monitoring of all fisheries: commercial, sport, and First Nation commercial/FSC

Goals & Objectives:

We believe steelhead are an eminently unique creature of immeasurable intrinsic value and vitally important economic value.

Therefore, we do not support any predetermined harvest rates for either the early or aggregate run of steelhead. We will not enter into negotiations that essentially allocate to the commercial fleet any level of allowable steelhead bycatch. In our opinion, the old SWC negotiated harvest rates of 37/24% are not valid anymore. We want discussions on commercial fishing methods to center on ‘zero bycatch’ for steelhead and how to attain it as a central theme.

We only have to look at how the 2008 season was managed with regard to steelhead harvest rates to know all we need to know about this issue. The post season DFO claim of “….10% harvest rate for the aggregate run and up to 3 times that for the early run”…..was essentially thrown out the window with the Tyee 40% overestimate. So, that means our early run fish were subjected to at least a 70% harvest rate. How unbelievable!! And this is with preset, long standing agreed to harvest rates in place. Where is the precaution when a situation like this occurs? How can we believe Fishery Managers have the ability to surgically meet preset goals when a situation like this occurs?

And with the Science Panel basically throwing out the use of the Skeena Management Model…how did DFO know in season what the impacts on steelhead were? How did the Operations Managers know if they had reached the ceilings or not?

If 2008 is any indication of what we can expect from Fishery Managers then we want absolutely nothing to do with steelhead harvest rates. You must shift to different ways to fish…period.

And while we support the lowering of overall exploitation rates on sockeye which would benefit steelhead indirectly, we feel it does not directly deal with the steelhead bycatch issue effectively enough. The capture of fish must be shifted to as selective a methods as possible.

Our main goal would be the elimination of bycatch in the marine commercial fishery.

Note, we state “elimination”…not the reduction, minimizing, lessening, or any other words presently used by DFO in literature to describe their efforts on this issue. As obviously whatever DFO has been doing in the past to address this issue has not been remotely satisfactory from our perspective.

The elimination of steelhead bycatch should be seen as a goal, an objective, and an ideal. It should be envisaged as the gold medal standard for fishery managers to strive for. And at present we don’t think this is the case. There is no proof or demonstrable action taken by DFO that we see that moves forward on addressing the bycatch issue directly.

We support the use of a license buyout and retraining type package to aid in the transition for gillnetters. The PICFI fund had $170 million dollars announced several years ago that should be used for this kind of initiative.

We do not support the indirect management action of ‘attrition’ to deal with the gillnet problem. This would only lengthen the impacts on steelhead and the sportfishery but also be unfair to the gillnetters. These people deserve to be dealt with in a forthright manner and fairly compensated and assisted to transition to other fields or endeavours.

Management regime:

Our ideal Skeena fishery management regime would envisage the elimination of the most non-selective fishing method combined with the majority of the overall catch being transferred to upriver selective locations. The most non-selective fishing method in our opinion is obviously gillnetting.

We would support a marine fishery consisting of a rationalized number of seine boats fishing in a tightly controlled and closely monitored environment. We would support further experimentation with the ITQ system so long as the monitoring and enforcement of the fishery was of a high standard and rigorously applied. This small, well regulated fishery should occur outside the Skeena river mouth area of River-Gap-Slough to further lessen encounter and mortality rates with non-target species such as steelhead.

We support the orderly transfer of commercial fishing effort and catch to inriver and terminal locations. Again, this fishery should be prosecuted under tightly regulated and highly monitored conditions to assure the highest survival rates possible for non-target species and stocks.

We strongly support the notion of starting to make changes immediately in the management regime of the fishery in order prevent further erosion of both weak salmon stocks and to ameliorate the negative impacts of the fishery on steelhead and the associated sport fishery.

Our perspectives with regards to weak salmon stocks are:

-we support management regimes that actually place conservation of the fish stocks as a priority

-we do not support ‘trade-offs’ in management that could lead to or allow the extinction of any particular stock of fish

-we support conservation oriented management regimes that would allow for the rebuilding of depressed or threatened wild sockeye stocks, such as Kitwanga, Nanika,and Slamgeesh sockeye which are of special food interest to First Nations

-we support conservation measures to rebuild depressed chum salmon stocks


North Coast Steelhead Alliance said...

just fyi: the commercial guys question the 30+40=70% harvest rate on early stld.
The reported rate was up to season a Tyee overestimate of 40% was announced. we took 30+40 to = 70%....obviously way above the ceiling of 37%.
DFO says the truth lies somewhere in basically still over the ceiling.
were still digging to find out what the actual number really is.

Bob Budd said...

Thank you NCSA for stating so eloquently what must be our goal for wild steelhead...ZERO percent bycatch!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I've been searching the Net for a report titled "Fishing in Skeena Watershed Area" written in 1990. I haven't found anything, but I came across your blog in the hope that maybe you've heard of it or have come across it.

I don't know the author of the report, but it was written in 1990. Would you, by any chance, know if the report was ever published anywhere?


North Coast Steelhead Alliance said...

Hi Denise,
I'm afraid I cant help you on this. Maybe if you have more of a description about what the article is about it might help.

Anonymous said...

As far as I know, the report provides estimates of average food expenditures and average supplies expenditures if someone where to visit a fishing lodge along the Skeena River.

It's similar to a study done by the ARA Consulting Group, Economic Impacts of the Skeena River Freshwater Sport Fishery. But that report was written in 1991.

I'm going to keep looking, but can't seem to find anything. I'm more or less trying to verify some estimates in a report.

Thanks for your response!

North Coast Steelhead Alliance said...

We are familiar with the ARA report...I have a copy of that study...but, the other one you mention I'm drawing a blank on.