Monday, June 01, 2009

Recent Commercial fishing sector lobbying

Here's a sample of the commercial lobby rhetoric coming out of Prince Rupert lately.
This letter is from the Area C Harvest Committee, the Native Brotherhood of BC, the Northern Native Fishing Corporation, and the UFAWU-CAW ( United Fisheries and Allied Workers Union....mostly shoreworkers in canneries).....these are the groups that make up the gillnet fleet mostly. The letter is directed at the DFO Area Chief for Fisheries Management on the north coast Mr David Einarson.

Let's examine some of their concerns starting with a planned reduction in the Skeena sockeye exploitation rate. ( Some Background: DFO is proposing a reduction in Skeena sockeye exploitation rate. The rate is lower than previous years, but not in line with the suggestions from the Independant Science Review Panel Report.) For the steelhead-centric types, scroll down to # 3 for the short set/short net discussion.

From the Commercial lobby letter: (NCSA comments in blue)
1) Skeena Sockeye ER

The UFAWU-CAW is very distressed by the sockeye exploitation rate in Draft 2 of the IFMP. It is a 30% drop from the rates established in 2003 and a 40% drop from the 10 year average previous to 2003. It is too much.Not too much if you are a wild sockeye from a system with less than a couple of hundred survivors.

1a) The proposed plan will reduce marine harvests by 200,000 sockeye. Fewer than 20,000 of these fish are non-Babine ‘wilds’ and they will be divided among 26 different lakes. A questionable difference in spawning returns to these systems, yet a huge impact on commercial fishers.We are pretty sure most depressed wild sockeye stocks could use an extra thousand fish on the spawning beds to assist in rebuilding. Again, their view is commercial fishing takes precedence over the actual fish.
The Wild Salmon Policy says that all the problems facing weak stocks should be investigated so that we know what we are trying to resolve in any rebuilding plan. Social and economic implications are also to be weighted. Rebuilding trajectories need to be agreed upon and limit reference points established. The Skeena Watershed Committee had this on its work plan at the request of the commercial sector, but never accomplished anything. Some may say that the other participants did not co-operate in a WSP/SWC trade-off process because they find it easier to feather their own nests by dealing with issues politically. Interesting perspective on the SWI....the other groups referred to seem to think the opposite...or that DFO was the culprit in not addressing the issues directly and in a forthright manner. The SWI 'process' drags on as we speak. To give some impression of how effective this SWI process has been, it spent all of 20 minutes on a conference call 2 weeks ago in reviewing this season's IFMP ( the main 'fishing plan').

We strongly object to DFO making cuts of this magnitude without addressing the tradeoffs and consequences to the fishery.Doesnt sound too concerned with depressed fish stocks do they?? Only concerned with impacts on fishermen......Didnt DFO manage another fish stock in this manner somewhere else in Canada?? That's right...DFO managed the Atlantic Cod almost into extinction by managing for jobs over fish.
Although the ISRP states that the present exploitation rates will ‘remain at severely depressed levels’ the scientists also said that “…most of the non-Babine sockeye stocks; those stocks are now very low, but the SEDS data show that most are not continuing to trend downward toward extinction.” p47. The cuts DFO has presented in this plan are far above what is needed to maintain the stocks at their present levels – in fact, that could be done at recent exploitation rates. Awesome logic in play here, basically stating: "the stocks are severely depressed...but studies show these stocks are not trending downward any further. The proposed harvest cuts are way more than what are needed to keep them at the present depressed levels"
What happened to actually wanting to re-build these runs so that they are not at risk of extinction and so First Nations folks can engage in their Charter Right protected Food, Social, and Ceremonial( FSC) fisheries?? The commercial guys are saying status quo is fine and depressed sockeye stocks can stay depressed basically forever so long as they dont impact fishermen via conservation concerns.

3) Short sets / short nets (This is the 'selective' gillnet measure of forcing boats to use only a half length net and keep it soaked for a short period of time thus supposedly giving non-target bycatch a better chance at survival after release)

We totally object to short sets and short nets being required this season to increase steelhead savings unless there is a steelhead conservation problem. We understand that MOE wants the commercial fleets to pass more steelhead by for allocation purposes – and we ask you (as we are asking them) how much is enough? How heroic are the actions that we have to take in order to please the steelhead lobby?

Absolutely priceless...especially the 'heroic' part. And the answer to the question 'how much is enough' is easy: WE WANT THEM ALL. The NCSA told everyone this at the Terrace SWI Congress earlier this spring. We dont want any of them killed in what is a non-sustainable, non-selective archaic gillnet fishery. Your industry should not be allowed to negatively impact another industry in this manner. Catch all the sockeye you want just dont kill steelhead or other species while your conducting your business. If your chosen capture method does not allow that, then its time to look for a different way to catch the target species.
We want to point out that short sets/nets increase fishermen’s costs. They have to cut their nets, re-hang part of them, and then they have to change their fishing patterns and cut their specially developed drifts. In performing short sets with short nets, their fuel costs increase astronomically as they cannot shut off their engines while drifting as is common practice.

The whining continues....unbelieveable that the gillnetters do not want to comply with selective measures because of costs, old habits, and misc. other excuses. Even more amazing is DFO capitulating and giving them a choice in the matter.
As well, it is a safety issue – most gillnetters are over 60 years old and with 20 minute soak times never have a chance to rest or eat.

This is incredible: to claim a 'safety issue' when really all gillnetters are too old to comply with the selective, where do you start with a statement like that? Maybe its time to consider it might be time to retire...or get a different job....or try working out the other 50 weeks of the year you dont fish!? To state an industry demographic precludes the application of measures used to ameliorate the negative effects of said industry on other stocks and other resource users is completely unacceptable. But, amazingly, this type of rhetoric resonates with DFO in Prince Rupert. Remember, DFO managers live in the community and see these fisher folks at the grocery store and as neighbours. Of course the managers will cut them any slack available as it is basic human nature to pity and try to accomodate. Plus, the commercial lobbyists, like the letter writers, can cruise into the DFO office and pound on the manager's desk at any time during the season crying the blues about jobs, income, EI benefits, etc to beg for further openings. As weve stated many times before: move the DFO offices out of Prince Rupert if the fishery management is to truly reflect the watersheds interests.Short sets / short nets were developed as a tool – in a tool box – to help conserve fish that were in trouble. Not to enrich another user group. And devaluing the efforts that fishermen make to conserve weak stocks by requesting them to do it pro forma will not pay off. It just demeans their efforts and makes them less inclined to assist in future endeavors when it is really needed.

The short set/short net was basically developed as a last ditch effort to allow these non-selective gear types to continue to fish at least a little bit...yet another DFO attempt at accomodating everyone while pleasing no one. Complaints about changing fishing habits to accomodate selective measures is amazing...let's ask: do they want to fish at all? If they do, they better be more amenable to selective measures. The NCSA was asking for the short set to be used all season this year plus area closures ( Skeena rivermouth). However, in a step backwards DFO has refused to even commit to using any slective measures such as this for 2009. The measures are included in this years IFMP (Fishing Plan) but no mention guaranteeing their use....only their 'possible use'.
The prevailing attitude in this paragraph shows that fishermen wont do what they are told. Their attitude is "we'll fish only certain ways , at certain times....that works best for us" It is time DFO showed them who the boss is. Fishermen dont make the rules. Either fish by following the rules or sit tied up to the dock....your choice.
You also have put all this discussion in context: remember, last year the gillnetters fished more than their 10 year average. And only after the season was long done was the Tyee Test Fishery 38% overestimate released. So, in 2008 the gillnetters got way more fishing than they were supposed to with the commensurate negative impacts on steelhead and other non-target species and stocks. Now, here they are in 2009 demanding more fishing, not to use selective measures, and attempting to limit the number of steelhead making it past their fishery, all in complete disregard of what occurred over the last few years. We wonder what color the sky is in the gillnetter world.....??!!

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