Monday, July 20, 2009

Union Newspaper rebuttal #1

In a recent commentary in a Union newsletter, the Northern Rep for the UFAW Union criticizes the steelhead sector, especially the Skeena steelhead guides, characterizing them as 'greedy'.

Now since the piece is written for a target audience of commercial fishermen only, we wont give it credence by spending too much time analyzing it. Just keep in mind this is the very same commercial rep who lobbied so hard and successfully for the extended fishing that occurred in 2006 that led to the sportfish sector uproar over Skeena fishery management. Her famous quote from 2006 is something along the lines of "....we fished the snot out of them...."

We would, however, like to take issue with some aspects of the piece that it use inaccurate data as the premise for its attack on steelhead guides.

The 2008 Skeena steelhead escapement was not 60,000 as the commentary asserts. The Ministry of Environment personnel did not provide such data. A more accurate estimate would be approximately 30,000 which makes her assertion that the run was 'huge' and twice the required spawning requirement quite spurious.

Furthermore, she completely neglects to mention the Tyee overestimate of 36-38%, which directly applies to the steelhead Index number. So, to imply this supposedly huge run in 2008 should have been sufficient for the steelhead sector is completely offbase. The escapement number probably doesnt even reach the minimum spawning requirement threshold of 32,000. But, this isnt news as it has only reached the threshold 10 times since 1956.

Moroever, the idea of a commercial fishing rep telling the steelhead sector how many steelhead is enough is particularly galling. Why should the steelhead sector be content with accepting the dregs from the commercial fishery? Why should the sportfishng tourism industry be content with leftover steelhead numbers that equate to below minimum spawning requirements? Far from being greedy, steelhead advocates are fighting for the reduction of commercial fishing impacts on steelhead overall, but particularly on the early run component, in order to 'conserve' not use wastefully....this magnificent resource. Wantonly killing valuable species while fishing non-selectively for pinks, for example, at 10 cents per pound is not a wise use of this public resource.

And for a representative of an industry that has enjoyed almost monopolistic access to a public resource for over a hundred years, to assert that a successful, low impact, sportfishing industry is 'greedy' is totally absurd. Greedy could be defined as the commercial sector's lobbying for almost continual fishing in 2006. Now that behaviour was a prime example of spectacular greed on their sector's behalf, so it makes this commentary's claim look completely hypocritical.

Furthermore, diverting attention away from one's own problems by throwing insults at other sectors is typical commercial rhetoric. This barely viable industry, comprised of an aging demographic unable to adjust physically or financially to new realities continues to lash out at any other potential source to blame their misery on. As ocean survival, climate change, new conservation issues, and world market forces work against the industry, it seems only a matter of time before a major paradigm shift occurs in fishery management in Skeena that moves the fishery away from non-selective methodologies.

As for steelhead, we feel there is no magic maximum number our sector would or should accept. Just as there is no number we should willingly allocate to the commercial fishery for them to continue conducting their business in this most non-selective manner. That would only continue the waste of a valuable resource and sanction the present poor fishery management practices.

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