Monday, June 01, 2009

More Commercial sector letters

Here is a copy of a letter sent by the various gillnet fleet representatives to the DFO Minister recently. It is very similar to the one sent to North Coast Area Manager Einarson that we dissected in the last post.
The same points we made earlier apply here. Most notably, the Skeena sockeye exploitation rate reduction and the short set/short net issue. For the Skeena sockeye rate check out the wording they use in bold type "...The results are that a 30% cut in Exploitation Rate will not be necessary in order to maintain wild stocks at a stable level while Strategy Four of the Wild Salmon Policy is being implemented. "
Again, the commercial reps make the point that wild stocks are at a stable level. They conveniently neglect to inform the Minister most wild sockeye stocks are at historically depressed levels. How nice of the commercial fleet to allow these stocks to stay at a depressed level to enable them to keep fishing at present rates.
As for the selective gillnet fishery and short sets/short nets, the commercial reps try to say these should only be used when a conservation concern exists for steelhead. In a bit of selective use of information, they again neglect to inform the Minister that the ISRP Report stated there is not enough stock information to state a conservation concern for steelhead, especially the early run. This doesnt mean there is no conservation concern, just that there is not enough information to make an informed decision.....Two very different things.
Of concern is the overarching attitude that there is nothing wrong with gillnets....everything is fine....and the problems are all someone elses making. Gillnetters truly live in their own little world of denial dont they....?

Read more...Full letter copied below

The Honourable Gail SheaHouse of Commons Minister of Fisheries and OceansParliament Buildings, Wellington StreetOttawa, OntarioCanada K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Shea,

Re: North Coast Salmon IFMP

Area C Harvest Committee, the NNFC, the NBBC and the UFAWU-CAW and have three serious concerns with the Draft 2 of the North Coast Salmon IFMP.

Skeena Sockeye Harvest Rate reduction
Evaluation of area C gillnet licenses
Ministry of Environment’s request for short sets / short nets for Steelhead allocation

The Area C Harvest Committee was created by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to represent salmon gillnetters on the North Coast of B.C. (Area C). It has 8 members who were elected at large by Area C licence holders.

The Northern Native Fishing Corporation (NNFC) is owned by three First Nations Tribal Councils which include the Gitxan, Haida, Nisga’a, and Tsimshian First Nations. The Corporation was created by the Government of Canada to own and lease licenses in perpetuity in order to protect native participation in the commercial fishery.

The Native Brotherhood of B.C. (NBBC) is the senior First Nations organization in B.C. and has advanced the interests of aboriginal fishermen since the early 1940s.

The United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union-CAW (UFAWU-CAW) represents fishermen and fish plant workers in British Columbia.

1) Skeena Sockeye ER

We ask that the Minister not apply a 30% cut in the Skeena River sockeye exploitation rate and, instead, require that North Coast DFO apply Strategy 4 - Integrated Strategic Planning - of the Wild Salmon Policy.

The sockeye exploitation rate in Draft 2 of the IFMP is a 30% drop from the rates established in 2003 and a 40% drop from the 10 year average previous to 2003.

The proposed plan will reduce marine harvests by 200,000 sockeye (from 600,000 normally harvested on a 2 million run to 400,000). Fewer than 20,000 of these fish are non-Babine ‘wilds’. They will return to 31 different lakes; - an unknown and unevaluated benefit to these systems, yet a huge negative impact on commercial fishers and our north coast communities.

The model that DFO used in their consultation with the commercial sector is inaccurate. Alaksan impacts were over-estimated and mixed stock inland ESSR fishery impacts we not included. Dr Karl English, a biologist who worked with the DFO on Alaskan and First Nations impacts on Skeena sockeye re-worked the model with the correct impacts. The results are that a 30% cut in Exploitation Rate will not be necessary in order to maintain wild stocks at a stable level while Strategy Four of the Wild Salmon Policy is being implemented.

We have been participating in a intrasectoral watershed forum with DFO. Limit reference points, rebuilding trajectories, and rebuilding strategies were not discussed, even though they were continually placed on the agenda by the commercial sector.

The net fleet cannot survive with a 30% cut in catch in the Skeena sockeye fishery which is the bread and butter for the north coast net fleet. These cuts will have significant socio-economic costs as compared to unevaluated and questionable benefits for the wild stocks.

The Wild Salmon Policy Strategy Four requires that rebuilding plans should be evaluated for biological, social and economic impacts. If the Department delivers such a severe exploitation rate cut without these discussions, it leaves no room for future science and socio-economic based trade-off negotiations. The WSP Strategy Four will have been rendered meaningless.

2) Evaluation of gillnet licenses:

We support the 2009 IFMP formula for evaluating a gillnet license for the purpose of transferring sockeye to the inland fishery.

For the past 4 years, we have requested the formula of TAC divided by the number of licenses as this is the formula used in all other salmon fisheries for fish transfer. The Skeena Fisheries Commission was aware of our annual request.
The Skeena Fisheries Commission complain that this change is too sudden. We disagree because the SFC does not usually make arrangements to lease gillnet licenses before the beginning or middle of July as they do not want to lease any licenses prior to an in-season verification of run size.

3) Short sets / short nets

We ask that the Minister not require gillnets to fish with short sets and short nets as a standard fishing practice and only to require them when conservation problems exist.
We understand that the Province’s Ministry of Environment is asking that DFO include in the fishing plan mandatory short sets / short nets in order to pass more steelhead by the commercial fleet regardless of steelhead run size

Short sets and short nets are part of a gillnetter’s selective fishery tool box as described in a Policy for Selective Fishing in order to meet conservation objectives.

There does not appear to be a conservation issue with steelhead; MOE’s peer reviewed papers give 32,000 as the total escapement required to meet MSY and freshwater mortalities. MOE’s best estimate was a 60,000- 70,000 steelhead escapement past the commercial fleet in 2008.

Short sets/nets increase fishermen’s costs. They have to cut their nets, re-hang them, change their fishing patterns and alter their specially developed drifts. Their fuel costs double as they cannot shut off their engines.

Thank you for your consideration about our sincere concerns on the above issues.


Mabel Mazurek, Chair, Area C Harvest Committee

Henry Clifton, Vice-President, Native Brotherhood of B.C

William Starr, President, Northern Native Fishing Corporation

Joy Thorkelson, Northern Representative, UFAWU-CAW

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