Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reply from DFO to May 20th inquiry

On May 20th, the NCSA had inquired as to the outcome of a very important pre-season meeting between DFO and MOE staff. We were concerned that steelhead objectives were not properly addressed in the 2009 IFMP (fishing plan).
Here is DFO's formal reply from the Regional Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture Management. We'll translate and disect it in a follow-up post.

Letter rec'd July 28th.

Dear Mr Douglas
Re: 2009 North Coast IFMP

We have received your e-mail of May 20th, 2009 regarding the North Coast IFMP for
2009. I would like to take this opportunity to explain some of the features of the 2009 fishing plan which will benefit steelhead.

We have adopted significant changes to the aggregate sockeye exploitation rates for the 2009 season which will significantly reduce the impacts on steelhead, chum, and coho while contributing to the rebuilding of Skeena sockeye stocks. The objective for Skeena river sockeye is to reduce the Canadian commercial exploitation rate on Skeena sockeye to begin rebuilding individual sockeye stocks of concern by maintaining, on average, a Canadian commercial exploitation rate of between 20% and 30%. A reduction in Canadian exploitation rates will reduce commercial net fishing times, which will in turn significantly reduce steelhead encounters and mortalities.

The reduction in the commercial exploitation rate will result in a significant decrease in magnitude for the 2009 fishery. The proposed gillnet fishery in the Skeena could be as short as only six days with a two million run size, which is half the decadal average of twelve openings. However, this will depend on the fleet size and the amount of sockeye caught in each opening, and the overall sockeye abundance.

The Skeena commercial sockeye fishery will incorporate weedlines on all ninety mesh nets, daylight fisheries, timing the openings to increase success on sockeye while minimizing impact on other species, boundaries which will protect areas of known high abundance of non-target species, operating revival tanks, and seine net brailing and sorting inorder to minimize commercial net impacts to steelhead and other species. When chum, coho, and steelhead abundance increases in the fishing area, the additional measure of short gillnet set times and half-length nets will be implemented. As well, DFO has proposed three additional programs for 2009 that will monitor compliance during the gillnet and seine fisheries, including a pilot program for cameras on seine vessels, observers, and dockside auditing of off-loads. These programs will provide increased monitoring on the above selective fishng measures and aid in verifying encounters and handling of non-target species.

Consultation with the Province of BC and addressing their concerns is a regular and necessary part of developing the IFMP. The Province and DFO have discussed the fishing plan a number of times and specifically discussed steelhead by-catch reductions for 2009. In addition to the pre-season planning, regular in-season communications will be continuing as in the past.

North Coast staff have increased protection of steelhead by structuring fisheries and implementing measures to aovid and reduce steelhead encounters. As you are aware, the Independant Science Review Panel report did not find that steelhead were over-harvested. Fishery management decisions are made as a team in the North Coast office in accordance with the approved fishing plan, and supported by other area and regional staff. While DFO does make the final decision in matters of fisheries, all fishing plans are presented to, consulted on, and implemented based on advice from First Nations and stakeholders and take all information, including science advice such as the ISRP report, into account.

As you can see, DFO is making substantial changes to the commercial fishing plan that will significantly benefit steelhead. Substantial changes have been made in 2009 to the mixed stock fishery as we move to implement the Wild Salmon Policy. More work together with all interests is required to move forward, and your continued participation is appreciated.

Susan Farlinger
Regional Director
Fisheries and Aquaculture Management
Pacific Region

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