Sunday, 18 March 2018

Chinook Numbers - 2016 AA Data

For this week, I send along a very interesting document from Richard Lake, who, along with Avid Anglers that sent in chinook samples for DNA analysis, put the data together and analyzed it. A lot of work went into this, and it is worthwhile getting the perspective of  anglers rather than simply DFO. There are some conclusions that differ from our government department. 

Please note that I was unable to link the PDF to this post, so if you want it, send me an email, and I will forward it as an attachment to you.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Wild Salmon Plan

I recently put together a large perspective plan for the BC government to get in the game of bringing back wild Pacific salmon – see below. You may want to send it to your MLA, MP, or come up with your own version of what should be done for salmon and send that along.

I have made the plan focus on what to do in short specific points, but there is reasoning behind all items.

The most important point is the first one: committing BC to $100 million over ten years for freshwater habitat restoration; this is the most important thing that wild salmonids need, and for which DFO money has been far too low (note that the plan asks the feds for matching funds). 

An example for addressing is: the 277,000 culverts crossing salmon bearing streams that salmon won’t pass. The electrical potential ‘barrier’, resulting from using two metals of different nobility, causes drastically reduced spawning territory, but not something we normally think of in bringing spawning grounds back.

Based on the provincial government’s figures for remediation it has already done, it will take more than 3,000 years to fix them all. A sobering reality, unless we step up and get with it. Another project, fixing the clay bank on the Cowichan River a few years ago – the purpose to stabilize the bank, so it did not slip into the river, thus smothering spawning beds – cost $1.5 million. If you stand below and look up at it, it becomes obvious that even $20 million per year from the senior levels of government is both a figure easy to put into budgets, and not enough money. Note that the bank sloughed in the past year, and thus needs work once again.

To give you an idea of how little is spent on Van Isle, of the $2 million DFO committed two years ago, only $180,000 was spent on the island. The Pacific Salmon Foundation has become the go-to organization for freshwater habitat restoration in BC, and thus the logical home for the money from both governments. It also has the benefit of the governments not having to create a bureaucracy to tackle restoration head on.

The PSF does receive the saltwater salmon tax revenue of $1.8 million dollars annually, and DFO created an endowment, and has contributed to it since then. It stands over $35 million now, and, importantly, has its own board to invest funds and make disbursements. Furthermore, this BC-centred organization leverages every dollar from contributions 4 to 7 times.

I made the fish farm issue, putting them on land and retraining workers who need it, only one part of the overall plan. It is my belief after reading tens of thousands of pages/documents from the world-wide press, that it is better than ‘evidence based’ plans, to make the step based on the precautionary principle, what BC residents wish, what aboriginals want and facing the problem created by climate warming. Last year, Alaska’s harvest – it forbids fish farms – was 243 million salmon commercially, while ours was pretty much non-existent. That speaks volumes.

The item about aboriginals cleaning out rivers of Atlantic Salmon adults and progeny seems simple enough, but if you have ever seen the existing river rangers, they are young, in the prime of their lives and proud of what they do in river swims. And there is lots of work. You may know that John Volpe showed that of the 40 Van Isle rivers his team swam to identify aliens, 97% of rivers with multiple species of Pacific salmonids, had Atlantics of more than one generation. This is shocking, and a good job for natives to address.

As for the Southern Resident Killer Whales, the immediate need is chinook in the May to September period when they are on our shores feeding heavily. The net pen suggestion addresses this need (and also used by the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition). The important point being to get in the game quickly, as adults are four years away; but if you come to this conclusion four years from now, that means adults are eight years away.

To address net pen chinook survival, a seal cull will be required for the central Salish Sea area, meaning local waters. The PSF’s study of this water shows that seals/sea lions eat 40- and 47-% of chinook and coho smolts respectively. Currently, these are mostly wild fish, and a big chomp out of the few remaining Fraser et al fish. As the public likes killer whales more than seals, a carefully worded communication’s document should be able to accomplish this.

And let’s not forget the Cowichan River chinook, whose 2017 number still stands at 26.5-thousand returnees. Let’s figure out what went right, particularly as they spend their first year or two circling the Strait of Georgia, before migrating off shore, and repeat this in other basin rivers. Note that there were 4,000 Jacks among these fish, suggesting another big haul in 2018. The Warm Blob did not seem to affect these fish. Why not? 

Anyway, I will give you the plan now, rather than go on. Please do get in touch with your MLA/MP. To keep the text shorter, I left off the communications plan for selling the plan:

Wild BC Salmon Plan – Prepared by DC Reid for the BC Government 

The government of BC has the following plan for bringing back wild Pacific salmon:

1.     We are moving forward to save BC’s iconic Wild Pacific Salmon, threatened now on several fronts. We will fund the Pacific Salmon Foundation $100 million over ten years to undertake freshwater habitat restoration. We are asking the federal government to add the same amount of funding for the same purpose, making this the biggest positive plan for wild salmon ever undertaken in BC!

2.     Yes, there is science on the problems with fish farms, but there are other issues: wild salmon are declining, climate change is getting worse, British Columbians by and large don’t like fish farms, our aboriginal brothers want their wild salmon back and farmed salmon out of the ocean. We have to act in accordance with British Columbian wishes and use the precautionary principle.

3.     In accordance with our plans, fish farms will be moved to land. Globally, the industry has been moving onto land for many years, including in Norway, where BC farms are from, and it is now time to do the same here.
Norway stopped auctioning in-ocean licences in 2014 and now only grants, for free, on-land licences; this is a $9- to $12-million subsidy to set up on land. We will offer the same in BC, a free licence.

Marine Harvest is investing $100 Million in closed containment, and the other companies also have their plans. It makes sense for Norwegian companies to spend some in BC, on our much cheaper land, with cheaper labour than Norway, with their monetary policy inflated Krone that will buy more in BC, rather than go back to Norway and set up on land there.

4.     We will retrain workers who may be displaced by the move to land.

5.     We will set up a 20,000mt on-land fish farm, working with industry leader, Aqua Maof, and our aboriginal brothers at Kuterra.

6.     Specifically, we’ll retire 33% of current leases each June for the next three years. We’re here to help in the transition to land. And with our lower costs, you’ll be contributing to the BC economy, without the damaging externalities of the old way of doing things.

7.     We have a plan for moving fish farms to land. If you aren’t interested, you can return to Norway, and we in BC, with a made in BC plan, will retrain our workers, for other industries or in the 20,000 metric tonne plan and take BC fish to the world.

8.     We will be setting up 12 net-pen operations for the next ten years, with 2 million sterilized chinook fry each to feed southern resident killer whales.

9.     We will set up net-pen operations in coastal First Nations to raise their own, local, sterilized salmon.

10.  We will provide funding for our aboriginal brothers to remove Atlantic salmon and their fry from BC rivers.

11.  We propose that DFO curtail the herring roe fishery.

Final Notes:

1.      In a chinook netpen, the fry are put in a pen in saltwater, fed for three weeks and then released to carry on with their lives. They return to the site of the pen as adult fish, rather than into a river. In the case of chinook, they can provide a fishery in their second to seventh year, depending on whether the chinook nurse in a near shore area, and on how many years the stock from which they are chosen typically lives before returning as an adult fish.

2.     Adam Olsen’s suggestion of a Wild Salmon Secretariat is a good idea. Olsen is from the Tsartlip First Nation and the MLA for North Saanich and the Islands.

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Constance Bank

I zipped out to Constance Bank the other day from Oak Bay where my boat is moored. I motored to a GPS waypoint that marks the 60-foot shallow at the west end. The tides were favourable, as in a low tide at 9 AM with a low-high at 1 PM. As fish bite after a low and before a high, that meant there were two bite periods within a four-hour fish.

An enormous container ship was sitting on my mark, so I motored around the bow before setting the lines. Passing the bow, I didn’t see the anchor line and thought that a bit strange but slowed to set out my lines. The plan was to fish to the bumps on the south west side, where a few boats were already doing the same.

The glow-green wire-rigged teaser head had a medium anchovy inserted, curved in the last third of the bait – for that medium speed, fishy spiral – on a leader of about 40 inches to a Farr Better glow-green flasher. 

Go look at the post that shows how to make a wire-rigged teaser, if you don’t know how: Even though the flasher is a bit old compared with today’s plethora of colours, it has a good feature: on a bite, the line pulls the pin on the trailing edge, resulting in the flasher only being attached to the main line through the top end of the flasher, meaning there is no flasher blade and its shear between you and the fish. Much more fun, and you land more fish. Very few break off.

I sent the bait line on the port side and lowered it away. I checked to make sure the electric downrigger would lift the ball. Finding it slow to non-existent, and my bait trolling 110 feet down, I pulled the electrical lead from its socket and noticed how much rust there was on the copper end. A couple of minutes with fine grit sandpaper, and replaced into its socket, the downrigger was back operational.

The lead on the starboard downrigger was also sanded to a shiny copper surface, and away went a green splatterback Coho Killer on a 36-inch leader to a Purple Onion flasher. I looked up and, drat, the container ship was farther away than I expected, and the boats I was trying to motor to, weren’t any closer. I was drifting toward Race Rocks, the opposite of what the tide guide said.

It should have been a flood tide, and, traveling east, I should have come up from the 200-foot depths to the edge of the Bank where I would turn south and investigate the humps. But I was not making any headway at all. And while I should have been east and south of the container ship, it just seemed farther and farther to the east of me. 

It is bad practice to fish into tidal flow, because you get stuck in one spot, and thus can’t go and find the fish. And though I am reluctant to increase speed with bait out, as it shreds, and action gets too fast, I gave it a bit of gas, and went to check the bait line.

Of course, at the surface, the bait leader was found to have wound up on itself to the point where the frizz would not unwind. Not to mention the bait was caught on the mainline, meaning, I had put it down to depth too fast, resulting in the bait descending vertically and thus caught the mainline above the release clip. 

Humbug. The leader was a mess and no longer usable, so it got snipped off, meaning the teaserhead would have to be re-rigged on a new leader – I rig up to 25 leaders with a treble and trailing single on evenings at home, so there is always ready gear to fish and changes can be made quickly – I have several leader boards so they get wound onto them and don’t get tangled. 

I always choose and rig back-up gear for both rods. I had a 602 teaser and anchovy already rigged, with red pin and also toothpicks from top to bottom for a fit that won’t quit attached to a Madi flasher. Thhe leader hole in the tab was not as tight as I would have liked (this can result in bait slumping backwards to the treble hook into an unfishy right angle) but I put it out anyway.

When I looked up, the container ship seemed miles from me, meaning I was drifting at high speed on a phantom ebb tide to Race Rocks. The other guys fishing seemed far away from me, when it dawned on me that I should have looked at the current tables for the Race because it was obvious I was getting dragged west. 

I sacrificed the bait, sped up, and moved onto the south west humps, then changed the bait. It had a chew mark but had not slumped into a right angle. Then I changed to a white Coho Killer on the starboard rod and lowered it ten feet above the bait line. The purpose in this is so when your deeper downrigger ball drags bottom, you only have to deal with one downrigger at a time, rather than struggle to lift both, and sometimes lose a ball. 

You only put the rods at the same depth when you are receiving most bites at one depth, and thus both sets of tackle should be at the same depth – and, of course, carry back up tackle so you can fish the same thing on each rod. Even so, I seldom put both rods at the same depth when one ball, the port side, is right on the bottom. Putting more flash in the same depth makes sense when fish are suspended; and when you may be fishing a spoon or plug without a flasher on one rod.

By this time, I was among the other boats, trolling at a reasonable speed, and raising and lowering gear based on bottom contours. When I went to check the bait line, it had tripped from the release clip, and I cursed, hit the green button up, and reeled in as fast as I could, wind turning the boat in circles. As it happened it was a fish rather than a spurious release, and once scooped in the net and brought on board was a nice 10-pound winter chinook.

I patted myself on the back and looked around, as I was among the fisher dudes, and hadn’t seen another fish caught. It dawned on me that as I was among them and that container ship seemed miles away to the east, that it was in fact under power and steaming to the turn up Haro Strait. Which meant when I went around its bow, there was no anchor line because it had already been lifted and the boat must have been under way. I am sure the captain must have cursed me, if he could have seen me at all. Won’t do that again.

Lastly, once I and my new friend got home, I looked at the Race Rocks current table, and sure enough it was ebbing, even though the Victoria tide guide said the tide was flooding. So, next time, I will check both, something I always do for Oak Bay, because of the conflicted tides that happen every day on The Flats. You learn something every time out.

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