Friday, July 22, 2011

Latest DFO management mistake: Tsimshian Gillnet Fishery

Here's a great recent example of a DFO screw up: the Tsimshian Demonstration Fishery.

This is an Economic Opportunity fishery taking place right now on the lower Skeena. It is not a food fishery, but an 'extra' economic opportunity fishery for the Tsimshian First Nation. Apparently, this was proposed in the spring and was presented to various processes, such as the IHPC (Integrated Harvest Planning Committee) with little opposition according to DFO managers.

Obviously, the proposal wasnt floated around too widely or publicly due to the sensitive nature around using more gillnets in the river. Anyway, the idea came from the Tsimshian wanting access to Economic opportunities. However, DFO Policies regarding this fishery state any opportunities granted in-river must be carried out using selective gear. i.e. beach seines, dipnets,  or the Babine weir.

The Tsimshian claim the Skeena in their territory is not conducive to using these methods and with the assistance of the LGL Consultants came up with yet another way to dress up a gillnet as a supposed selective tool. Their idea uses a short gillnet with a tender being used to go and grab fish as soon as the corks are seen to be sinking or moving. This technique is referred to as 'hot picking'. The idea being a quick retrieval will lessen any negative impacts of encountering the gillnet and thus increase the survival rate of non-target fish....that's the idea....(we can all guess what happens when a steelhead hits goes ballistic entangling itself and probably incurring substantial scale loss, wounds, or gill damage. So what if an 'observer' sees such a fish swim away the question is does it survive...does it survive to spawn.??)

Well, as stated previously, it really looks like just another poor attempt to get gillnets into the water doesnt it? Along with all the regular arguments about fish encountering gillnets, this proposal is a bad idea because it runs counter to the direction DFO has been moving towards recently. Statements and commitments made by DFO to the Marine Stewardship Certification program make it clear they have committed to moving towards more selective fishing. Putting more gillnets in the river is not going to accomplish this.

The Province of BC has goals and objectives for Skeena steelhead that involve lessening the encounters of these fish with non-selective gear types. This statement is included in the 2011 DFO IFMP. How does adding more gillnets to the river address these objectives?

Of course, adding more gillnets to the river meets none of these goals and objectives and we dont really know what DFO was thinking by approving this idea in the first place. No other user groups are in favour of seeing this method introduced to the lower Skeena. Certainly not steelheaders, who have seen enough of gillnets in the marine environment that we dont want more of them in the river itself. Certainly not conservationists who are worrried about chronically depressed lower Skeena chum salmon being further impacted by the non-selective fishing.

Other upriver First Nations, who abide by the selective fishing regulations of the Economic Opportunity fishery, could feel hard done by when one group gets special treatment and isnt held to the same standards. Alternatives are available. Agreements between First Nations to access areas of the river more suitable for selective measures could be worked out.

Putting more gillnets in the river is just a bad idea all around. For the gillnet crowd and DFO to think they could try and dress up a gillnet yet again as something other than what it really is shows a new level of desparation.

We implore DFO to stop this experiment and work with the various First Nations to find workable solutions.
NCSA has already written to DFO Regional Director General Susan Farlinger and relayed our concerns and opposition to this 'experiment'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just another government land claims promise being broken. Natives were refused any fisheries that were meant for commercial sales because natevs did not sell fish pre-contact.

But as usual aboriginal bands continue to push, intimidate or litigate (with taxpayer money) until they get their way.

And of course if one band gets this "economic" fishery then all other bands will want it. It's bad enough they get to start catching ceremonial and food fish weeks before non-natives get to fish, but adding commercial sales is a clear betrayal by our government.

(And the food fish quota is so high that even if each band member ate fish every meal all year long they couldn't eat it all)