Wednesday, July 08, 2009

South Coast IFMP versus North Coast: steelhead objectives comparison

Take a look at the South Coast IFMP Steelhead Objectives and notice the huge difference from the North Coast IFMP steelhead objectives.

While North Coast tries to 'minimize and mitigate' commercial impacts on steelhead, the South Coast specifically quantifies what it wants to do with regard to steelhead. Moreover, they state the steelhead objective is provided directly by the Ministry of Environment and happily include it in their IFMP.

This raises several questions. Such as, why cant the north coast state that they will protect 80% of the run with 90% certainty!!?? Could you imagine the incredible difference this would make for steelhead, especially early run steelhead.
Another glaring discrepancy is with inter-agency relationships. It appears South Coast DFO and MOE are working closely together on the steelhead bycatch issue. Whereas, in the North Coast IFMP there is no direct mention of steelhead objectives being provided by MOE and only passing reference to consultation with MOE on steelhead. Where is the MOE 'Conservation Plus' steelhead initiative...? This is not mentioned at all in the North Coast IFMP. Surely, the Skeena Region MOE has steelhead objectives that are more consequential and detailed than just "minimizing commercial impacts"?

Why does DFO apparently act differently towards steelhead north versus south? Is regional autonomy out of control on north coast and managers feel steelhead just get in the way of sockeye fishing? It would seem so by comparing these two IFMP's. Maybe Mr Sprout, the Regional Director General of Pacific Region DFO or Minister Gail Shea could enlighten us as to why the disparate policy approaches between the two DFO divisions?

Also of interest is the mention of "stop light" criteria that would govern opening fisheries based on abundance indicators. The NCSA and DFO Area Chief discussed a similar idea in 2007 when record low early steelhead numbers at Tyee caused great concern. Although the Area Chief professed interest in such a program at the time, if peer reviewed etc.etc, nothing further ever materialized.

And the assertion that reduced escapements would result in "..opportunities for non-selective fisheries being curtailed..." is of interest. The only time you hear or see this type of verbiage in a North Coast IFMP is in relation to gillnetter non-compliance with selective measures. And rarely, if ever, has the threat ever been followed through with. We again use the example from 2008 when 100% of gillnetters checked on opening day where found to be out of compliance. Did the fishery close or be curtailed? No. It appears gillnet opportunity would never be curtailed because of steelhead concerns on north coast.

Why cant we transfer some of those people involved in the South Coast IFMP up to North Coast for a while??

4.1.6. Steelhead
The objective for Interior Fraser River steelhead provided by the B.C. Ministry of the Environment is to protect 80% of the run with a 90% certainty in Fraser River commercial gill net fisheries. This objective does not apply to selective commercial fisheries (those using gear types other that gill nets) or fisheries conducted terminally on single stocks. In addition, other commercial south coast fisheries are to release to the water with the least possible harm all steelhead caught incidentally in fisheries targeting other species. The expected outcome of this objective is to provide commercial opportunity while minimizing risk and level of steelhead exploitation through providing a window for commercial fishing opportunity.
There are ongoing discussions between DFO and the Province to develop a management
framework for Interior Fraser steelhead. It is expected that this management framework could include the following three items:
1). Shifting the timing of the fishery window to protect the Deadman River component of the run while avoiding the peak timing of steelhead escapement.
2). Improving steelhead catch monitoring in fisheries that occur on the stocks prior to the Fraser River and the development of "stop light" criteria that would govern opening fisheries in future years based on abundance indicators.
3). The application of the management objectives in this approach are tied to escapement targets of steelhead stocks. The size and the timing of the fishery window may be varied in future years in accordance with abundance of the constituent stocks. If current freshwater and ocean conditions persist and result in reduced escapements then opportunities for non-selective fisheries will be curtailed.

No comments: