Wednesday, July 01, 2009

DFO Area Chief Inquiry Response

Here is the response from DFO Area Chief to our recent inquiry generated by his Salmon Update #2. His answers in blue.

Thanks for the North Coast Salmon Update #2.
Your Update does generate some questions from us. If you could please respond to these queries it would be appreciated.
Thanks very much in advance for your time.

1.Is the 2009 IFMP finalised, if not when will the IFMP be finalised?

IFMP is not out yet, but we hope to have it out this week.

2.Given the importance of steelhead ( to some) why arent steelhead encounter/release/killed stats for these fisheries included in your updates or posted online (even if the reported numbers are suspect)?

We can put the reported releases from the fisheries in if you like. Did you want the releases from the A3 sockeye fishery as well or just A4 sockeye fishery?

3. Is the proposed harvest rate for Skeena sockeye 20%? If not, what is it?

The proposed harvest rate, as we consulted on, is a range of 20% to 30%, with 20% being applied to a run size of 2M, gradually increasing to 30% at a run size of 5M. However, note that this is the proposed rate, as stated we do not have the IFMP out yet. There is not intended to be any sockeye fishing on the Skeena for a week or two anyway, so we will have an approved plan before we do any Skeena sockeye fishing.

Area 3
1.If 2 gilllnet openings caught approx 12,500 sockeye; to reach the target of 129,932 would take 19 more openings at this pace. Surely, Area 3 will not be opened to gillnetters 19 more times this season? As you might be aware, Skeena steelhead do migrate through Area 3.
(Figures from 2008 show 7 gillnet and 4 seine openings in Area 3 for a catch of only 41,679 sockeye). Yes, we do note the 10 year historical average for Area 3 openings is over 20, but 2009 fishery management is not supposed to look like the 1999 version.

Yes, this is why we don't do straight extrapolations like this, and I hesitated to put these numbers in because they are liable to be misinterpreted. Briefly though, think of the salmon coming in as a bell curve, and the first openings are fishing only on the initial part of this bell curve, thus the low catches. Of course, if the catches remained that low, that would c hange the run size, and so would equate to less fishing, and less expected catch. So, these numbers can be misleading, maybe I will put something like that in this week's version.

2.How many seine openings would you expect it take to reach the target of 47,500? (2008 had 4 seine openings in Area 3 with limited catch)

Seine sockeye catches can be good at times of high abundance, and so it could be few openings. However, if sockeye returns are poor, then they are more spread out and harder for a seine to catch. So, the answer is it depends on run size, which days you fish, and a number of other factors such as weather and tide action on the actual days that are open.

3. Why are there Area 3 openings prior to knowing how close the run will come to forecasts? Are you also allowing commercial fishing prior to fulfilling First Nations FSC opportunity or do the two run concurrently?

The Nass fish wheels give us good information on run size, but this info is usually too late to guide us in fish management decisions in the commercial fishing area. If we waited until we were certain of run size, then we would continually fish on the tail end of the run, and would alter the run timing, genetics, etc. Instead, we use CPUE and compare this (and total catch) with previous years data, to give us information on comparing years and what we can expect.

4. Why voluntary release for chum? What is the justification for allowing gillnetters to keep chum salmon, a stock of conservation concern on the north coast? Why is a stock of concern allowed to be killed as a bycatch extra for .40 cents a pound?

Rationale is that, 60% of the chum are dead in a gill net at time of retrieval, so that is a lot of dead fish to throw away. Instead we have incorporated "no fish zones" in the known usual migration corridor alongside Wales and Pearse Islands. However, if the situation gets bad enough, we will go to mandatory release, which is what we have done in Area 4. Area 3 chum stocks appear to be rebuilding with the current management measures, so if that continues, then we would stay the course.

5.How many Area 3 caught sockeye are Skeena bound fish, including possibly depressed Nanika sockeye?

This varies considerably by sub-area and week. Samplers are present in all the fisheries to tell us the answer to that exact question, taking DNA samples, which are then analyzed. This tells us the actual run size of the Nass, which is important to two treaties, as well as of course proper management.

Area 4:
1. Tyee: Did Tyee catch many steelhead kelts by opening early? If so, how many? Again, why are steelhead numbers not made public?

I don't know the answer to how many steelhead kelts they caught when we started May 25 instead of June 10. However, the answer I believe would not tell us much, because we have no data to compare this number to. We zeroed out the index to June 10 to give some meaning to these numbers, otherwise they would be way too misleading, with this year ahead in Chinook and sockeye. Mark Potyrala would know how many kelts were caught, if you want to find out, certainly this info is available.
**Mr Einarson answered this in a separate email: 33 kelts in Tyee early opening**

2.If Tyee sockeye numbers are lagging behind the run size estimate, at what point do you re-analyse and downgrade the estimate? Or do you just track the sockeye numbers up to to the first scheduled commercial opening and make a decision at this point?

If the escapement is below a certain number and is tracking for an escapement below about 1.2M, we wouldn't open. If the info is somewhat different, then we would guide our harvest strategy accordingly, depending on what the info told us, and what the HR allowance in the IFMP is. We update the expected run size daily in-season, and I will be including something on run sizes in my weekly reports once the numbers become somewhat more reprentative of run size.

3.It appears DFO has preset timing for commercial fisheries based on historical usage rather than anything to do with actual run strength or timing. Where does precautionary approach come into this scenario....remember Tyee and 2008....what visible measures are taken in employing a precautionary approach in north coast fishery management?

We don't have any preset timing for commercial fisheries based on historical usage. For instance, we used to conduct our first sockeye opening in the last week of June. This has been delayed significantly in recent years. What we do have, is expected run timing (think of that bell curve again). So, we know what to expect from week to week, what proportion of the total run will be available. We have found that Skeena sockeye run timing does not vary by more than a few days normally. So, the precautionary approach comes in by estimating the proportion of fish available in any given week, and applying that to the run size. The available fish is calculated from the Tyee test fishery, as well as information from all the fisheries that we get info from, such as FSC, Can commercial, and Alaskan.

4.Chinook: If the gillnet fleet did not meet its target of 4000 chinook because of lower than expected returns, will DFO put gillnetters on non-retention for Skeena chinook for the remainder of the season? Is the Skeena chinook run below average right now?

No and no. Currently the Chinook run looks about average, but will be taking a better look at this in the coming days. It seems that some of the poor catch in the first opening was due to water conditions, it occurred very near the peak of the freshet. In addition, the reduced days for sockeye will result in a lower impact on Chinook.

Hope this answers your questions, if you have any further, just let me know.

David Einarson

Area Chief, Resource Management Chef de Secteur, Gestion des Pêches
North Coast Area Secteur de la côte nord
Fisheries and Oceans Canada Pêches et Océans Canada
Phone: (250) 627-3426 Téléphone (250) 627-3426
Fax: (250) 627-3427 Télécopier: (250) 627-3427
Email: Courrier electronique:

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