Sunday, July 31, 2011

Informative article on Chum Issues

Here is an informative message received from Skeena Wild Conservation Trust's G. Taylor. It outlines the issue of chum bycatch and discards on the Central/North Coast.

DFO has determined that most North and Central Coast chum stocks are depleted and of "serious conservation concern". In order to "protect" these depleted stocks DFO requires fishermen to discard them.

Last week (July 24 to 30) approximately 50 SN vessels discarded 300 tons of chum salmon to harvest 600 tons of pink salmon and 150 tons of sockeye salmon.. Most other BC fisheries require independent on-grounds observers because fishermen are known to under-report discards. DFO does not require independent observers in salmon fisheries. The 300 tons is therefore likely an underestimate of the chum salmon discarded.

In addition, the absence of independent observers means that fisheries are not monitored to  ensure fishermen abide by their "Terms of Licence" and return the discarded salmon back into the water "with the least possible harm". Most familiar with these fisheries believe that the number of salmon that survive being caught and discarded in these fisheries is low.

DFO requires that chums be discarded as a "conservation measure". Yet, DFO cannot provide scientifically defensible estimates of how many chum salmon are discarded, the proportion that survive to spawn, or the consequences of killing so many salmon from depressed populations.

Why is this allowed to occur?:

1. Chums are of no commercial value. In fact, they are a cost to fishermen. Discarding chums slows the fishing process. The faster the unwanted chum salmon can be discarded the better.

2. The recreational sector does not have much interest in north and central coast chums and therefore places little value on them.

3. Most of the impacted chum stocks are located in wild and remote areas of BC like the Great Bear Rainforest, isolated from the majority of BC's population, and therefore are "out of sight, out of mind".

4. The media, because of the above three points, has not taken an interest.

In summary, we, as a society, place little value on these salmon.

The one body who is supposed to care about salmon conservation and salmon ecosystems - Canada's Department of Fisheries and Ocean's - has shown little interest in protecting and rebuilding North and Central Coast chums.

In contrast, management of chum fisheries on the South Coast reflects the economic and social value people living on the south coast place in their salmon. Commercial fisheries where fishermen can retain and sell the chum salmon they catch occur annually. There are significant and growing recreational fisheries for chums in both salt and fresh water. Businesses have flourished taking people to gaze in wonder and awe at grizzly bears feasting on salmon. And watching chum spawn in local streams is a major event in many communities.. To enable the above, commercial fisheries targeting chum salmon are managed to a maximum 15% commercial harvest rate, or less than half the rate DFO believes north and central coast chums suffer through being discarded.

The answer to the contrasting management styles between the north and south coasts lies in how we value chum salmon.  The lack of value we have placed on northern chums has led to them being treated like a "weed" in the garden. It is therefore likely that unless we begin to value these fish; they will remain depressed and at risk of extirpation.

Maybe we have to tell DFO that the value we place on these chum salmon is measured not in dollars, community benefits, or fishing opportunities, but because they are an important part of our BC. And therefore an important part of us. That we value our wild places, our bears, our steams, and our forests. And what binds it all together is our salmon.

And that they are too valuable to be discarded.

1 comment:

Niko said...

It is unfortunate that the mighty and prolific chum salmon have been ignored for so long. Chum salmon have a great positive impact on the ecology of coastal B. C. In addition, chum salmon can provide great sport for anglers in both freshwater and salt.

Chum salmon should at least be required to be released live when caught as by catch by commercial fishermen.