Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Q and As – Jan 26, 2014

South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition: Come to a meeting Thursday, Jan 30, 7 PM, Harbour View Salon, Prestige Oceanfront Resort, 6929 West Coast Road, Sooke.

A Powerpoint presentation will lead into discussion of a Southern Vancouver Island Chinook Revitalization Initiative. The SVIAC – please visit the site to renew your membership for 2014 – will champion a collaborative initiative to increase local Chinook salmon numbers for the benefit of the Southern Resident Killer Whales, listed as endangered in our waters. They prefer Chinook and DFO has not been successful in bringing back Cowichan stocks as well as several components of the Fraser run. We can all support local efforts in this regard, as we also will catch these fish as feeders and mature chinook returning to spawn or aggregate near net pen sites.

Halibut: The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) has announced the 2014 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for halibut. Canada’s TAC is: 6.85 Million pounds, down slightly from 7.04 M in 2013. You will recall that Martin Paish and our other sport representatives requested a 126 cm upper limit (roughly 58 pounds), the purpose of which was to keep all sport fisheries open past Labour Day. There was poundage left over and, we in Victoria, got to fish until December 31, 2013. See: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/species-especes/halibut-fletan-eng.html for 2013. Lucky us.

Currently we cannot fish for halibut, but do remember the 2013 retention regulation wording: ‘The daily limit is 1 fish, with possession limit of 2, only one greater than 83 cm.’ The sport catch will once again be 15% of the TAC. And the same fishing scenario as last year looks likely in 2014, meaning in the CRD area we will continue after the summer.

Halibut stocks in California, Oregon, and Washington are stable or rebounding. Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea stocks are still in decline, likely due to the by-catch from other fisheries, for example, the huge Pollack fishery. Their by-catch was a huge 8 M pounds – more than the entire catch in Canada. BC and the states to the south have effectively eliminated by-catch in recent years. But get these figures from Alaska: the 4C, 4D and 4E TAC will be reduced to 1.285 M pounds, but by-catch from other fisheries is expected to be a whopping 5.2 M pounds. Pretty wasteful. And it affects TACs for everyone else.

Circle Hooks: I was asked recently whether circle hooks are useful for halibut fishing. The short answer is: yes. In the past, the Siwash was the best hook all around in saltwater because it has a long, narrow point for easy penetration and with the barb holding the fish. It is also a straight shank hook and better paired with plugs and spoons so they do not ride to the side as with a Kirbed Octopus-style hook.

When DFO required all hooks to be barbless, the Siwash became the least preferable because fish just slid off the hook if rod tension was not maintained. While this really means the angler needs better technique – keeping the pressure on the fish – it makes sense to bend a Siwash from point to shank with pliers. This is true for coho as well because of the ‘coho roll’ they do at the boat in salt- or by your side in fresh-water.

Circle hooks are also preferable in beach, estuarial and river fishing for salmon, particularly chum because of their great numbers. The same can be said of chinook and pinks because they tend to sit in a mass and a hook retrieved through them simply snags a fish – not good for you or the fish. Circle hooks slide over backs and fins and only mouth hook fish that would otherwise be foul-hooked on any other kind of hook.

A circle hook has the tip of the point bent back toward the shank roughly 20 degrees; this is why the point does not foul-hook as it is does not hit the fish on the point. Just let that halibut have a few seconds to get the hook in its mouth, then set the hook. The advantage of circle hooks is that fish seldom slide back off them, so you land more fish.

DFO’s take on circle hooks for halibut is: use circle hooks as these have proven to hook halibut in the jaw or corner of the mouth. If you have to use J hooks pinch the barb to make unhooking easier. (Same URL as above).

Monday, 20 January 2014

Minister Responds to Readers - Jan 19, 2014

A month ago, I suggested TC readers send notes to Minster Shea regarding DFO’s lack of response to the $26 M, 1,200 page, 75 recommendation Cohen Commission Report. Many of us received stock letters. Let me walk you through it.

Shea: Thank you for your correspondence of October 30, 2013, regarding the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River, which was headed by Justice Cohen. 

A: As of today, January 19, 2014, DFO still has not responded to the Cohen Report, tabled Oct 31, 2012. This is why I and others started Environmental Petitions with the federal AG – to force DFO to respond concretely. That process requires a mandatory response in 120 days. No response yet.

Shea: The Cohen Commission provided Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) with valuable information that informs our day to day work of protecting Pacific salmon.  DFO is responding to Commissioner Cohen's recommendations by taking concrete actions that make a real difference.

A: One of Cohen’s important recommendations was for DFO to relinquish its conflicting role of supporting fish farms and put its full effort into implementing the 2005 Wild Salmon Policy, and the 1986 Habitat Policy. The report says there should be a new western director general charged with bringing back Fraser sockeye. DFO has not responded to these recommendations.

Shea: The Government of Canada's commitment and long-term support for the salmon fishery in British Columbia is demonstrated by the significant annual investment that is made on a wide range of activities including fisheries science, protection of fisheries habitat, salmon enhancement, catch monitoring, and enforcement.  Currently, DFO invests more than $65 million per year, of which about $20 million is directly related to Fraser River sockeye.

A: Well, no. My estimate of habitat restoration needs is $500 Million over five years. If you look at the Clay Bank on the Cowichan that was fixed for a cost of $1.5 M and is perhaps 300 yards long, it is immediately clear the cost of habitat restoration needed in BC. And on the Fraser, DFO actually allowed removal of spawning gravel that resulted in the destruction of 3 Million pink salmon. And where is restoration for 20 miles of San Juan River that looks like a lunar landscape from logging damage? Ditto for the Klanawa. And there are those 77,000 culverts all over BC with electrical potentials fish will not cross to feed or spawn. The BC government fixed 50 and stated the rest would take 3,080 years. It has been letting science people go for years, and the Harper Government has been in the news for dismantling science all over Canada.

So, please, send me a disaggregated budget that identifies real projects and costs. Salmon enhancement is about $21 M for all of BC – but it’s not habitat restoration. Furthermore, by comparison, Bonneville Power, invests more than $40 Million each year for one river, the Columbia, with the entire US budget reaching $1 Billion some years. And your panel that follows Fraser sockeye stocks is an impressive technical achievement, requiring DNA analysis twice per week in real time. This is outstanding, but it is not habitat restoration, nor enhancement. And what does enforcement do with rehabilitation of freshwater salmon habitat which all agree is the real problem? I will take your budget apart to see what, if anything, matters to the issue.

Shea: In addition, Economic Action Plan 2013 included three major measures that are directly addressing Cohen Commission recommendations.  First, the Government committed $57.5 million over five years that will help bolster environmental protection in the aquaculture sector through science, enhanced regulatory regime and improved reporting.  Second, it contained a new program to support recreational fisheries conservation activities through partnerships with community groups.  Third, all revenue collected from the Salmon Conservation Stamp will be dedicated to the Pacific Salmon Foundation, which will mean approximately $1 million more in revenue every year to support the Foundation's great work.

A: Well, no, putting $57.5 M into fish farms is not the same thing as addressing the Wild Salmon Policy, enhancement and habitat restoration for wild, native Pacific salmonids. BC wants fish farms out of the water.

Second, your community group program is only $1.9 M over two years, with only $.2M on Vancouver Island in 2013.

Third, the Salmon Stamp money given to the PSF is actually $1.8 M per year – and is not new as it has been done for some years. I recommended to Brian Riddell, CEO, that he suggest quadrupling the Stamp so revenue was $7.2 M per year to local projects, and gain a commitment from DFO and BC for $7.2 M per year each. The resulting $21.6 M is the beginning of a program of some size, with the leverage of local restoration groups and businesses, that begins to seriously address habitat restoration.

And, in all fairness let’s put this $1.8 M in proper perspective. You are putting $400 M into NL for fish farms, so the $1.8 here is .45% of what you are currently giving to fish farms that Cohen said you should hive off from your activities because it is fundamentally opposed to your responsibilities for wild fish. Where is the $400 M for wild BC salmon?

Shea: The Government has also decided to limit salmon farming activities in the Discovery Islands until September 30, 2020, including not allowing any new marine aquaculture sites; this is in line with Commissioner Cohen's recommendations.  During this time, additional scientific research will be conducted and a disease risk assessment process will be completed.  While the Canadian aquaculture industry already operates under some of the strictest regulations in the world in order to minimize risks to the environment, this action responds to the Commission's call to address "scientific unknowns" in the Discovery Islands.

A: Well, yes, a moratorium on the Discovery Island farms is in line with Cohen. On the other hand, his terms of reference, which you set, only allowed him to look at Fraser sockeye. His recommendations should be viewed as applying to the entire province.

As for science, look at this: http://fishfarmnews.blogspot.ca/2013/01/fish-farms-kill-more-than-50-of-wild.html. This paper shows a 50% drop in wild salmon numbers in BC since fish farms were introduced. They note the same in Ireland, Scotland and Atlantic Canada, in fact anywhere farmed salmon are introduced. Note that Commercial sector employment has been cut 50%, 1,700 jobs, in the same time period. So fish farm jobs likely eliminate jobs in other sectors, resulting in a net employment loss.

Also, you may recall that your own scientist, Kristi Miller, found the exotic disease, ISA, back to 1988 in Fraser sockeye and both ISA and HSMI, also an exotic Norwegian disease, in the Creative chinook farms – roughly 125,000 diseased fish per farm – in Clayoquot where your own estimate is only 501 wild chinook remaining in 6 streams. And didn’t they just win one of your ‘awards’ for being environmentally sustainable?

You will be aware that the Cohen evidence found an inability for DFO’s Moncton Lab, the CFIA and BC to find ISA disease. And now Miller and Riddell will be doing such work, which sounds good, but you have only allowed this with DFO, CFIA, and fish farms parsing the news releases. I’d say this is a ‘no’ as well.

And on the ‘strictest laws’ comment, this is regularly said all over the world. In the recent past, in Chile, USA, Norway and Scotland. The obvious answer is that your assertion cannot be true because every nation has its own laws.

Shea: The Department is committed to the viability of the salmon fishery in British Columbia so that it remains a sustainable and prosperous resource for years to come.

A: I would say, sadly, BC opinion is that DFO is managing wild salmon into extinction and in the end there will be no problem when all the salmon are gone. This includes Kennedy Lake sockeye, Georgia Strait coho, those Fraser 4-2s and 5-2s and the Owikeno sockeye that collapsed more than 20 years ago but have not recovered. Your own science says these are small fry and not killed in freshwater. You will know that the SFU Routledge Owikeno fry were the first ones to be found with ISA in BC, by three different labs.

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Culvert paper: http://bcforestconversation.com/wp-content/uploads/TrendsinRR.pdf.  See: Fish Need Money, 2013.

DFO sport program, $1.9 M to BC doc: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/npress-communique/2013/hq-ac52-eng.htmSee: Pacific Salmon Foundation, 2013.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Q and As - December 2013

I have put here a column that had useful email addresses and weblinks, among them DFO Minister Gail Shea's email address, the Cohen website address and a study that shows that wild fish populations decline by a factor of 50% in the presence of fish farms. This includes in BC.

Q and As – December – DC Reid

A: I received many emails over the last week about writing to Minister Gail Shea regarding the Cohen Commission and its report on failing Fraser River sockeye. Her email address should have read: Min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.
And I did more sleuthing on the Cohen Commission site, finding that in addition to Watershed Watch’s download, that a pro-fish farm site, Positive Aquaculture Awareness has a link to an archived site: http://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/206/301/pco-bcp/commissions/cohen/cohen_commission/LOCALHOS/INDEX.HTM.  I have put a link on my www.fishfarmnews.blogspot.com, too.

DFO has not responded to Cohen, but is moving forward to support farmed fish that Cohen said it should no longer be doing. It is putting together new licensing regulations: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/aquaculture/programs-programmes/discussion-eng.htm. My Environmental Petition to the Auditor General carries with it their requirement for Minister Shea to respond in 120 days, so we shall see.

Fish farms need to be on land; that’s the bottom line. The actual number of jobs is small at 795 and gross provincial product is only $61.9 Million or 9% of the total from the fishing sector. Sport/commercial/processing contribute 91.3% of the $667.4 Million in GPP, and of the econometrically-derived jobs: 12,200 of 13,900. There is no need to have to shoulder the pollution and other environmental costs from an industry that could simply be on land using effluent for energy or hydroponics. And saving wild salmon, too.

A: I have received a number of great stories regarding Saanich Inlet which was the jewel of saltwater sport fishing in the in the ‘50s to mid ‘70s. It crossed my mind that we should put together an e-book of the fishing history so there is a tangible record of what otherwise slips away as the memories are lost.

Anyone who wants to send in a story please do so. Anyone who wants to help in putting the –e-book together, please send me a note. Here is another of my stories: I was jigging with Stingsildas at the Coles Bay marker on a warm summer evening half a mile offshore. I noticed wind picking up and turned to the noise of it. Down the Malahat slope came a wall of rain and Bamberton disappeared.  By the time I had stowed my rod in my nine foot ‘whaling dory’ and started its trusty 3.5 hp Evinrude, water spouts had formed and I was in four foot waves. By the time I reached the Dyer Rocks aiming for the north shore of Coles Bay the waves had reached 7 feet and spin drift was blowing sideways crest to crest.

Then I encountered a log boom stretched out with a tugboat just barely keeping it off the rocks. I had to turn sideways to the wind and take the waves sideways, being slid up to the top of one and then down into the trough. I did not think I would make it, but eventually got around the tug’s bow. At the beach, one second I was high above it, the next the boat smacked down on the rocks, throwing me out face first on the shore.

A: Anyone who is interested in one of the interesting phenomenon of the ocean, Agate Beach has smelt spawning on it. The fish come up on the tide, spawn in the sand and then get washed back out to sea. I remember watching on the Kits beach in the seventies as anglers with small nets hauled out dinner from the silver wriggle.

The science showing a 50% drop in wild salmon numbers in BC since fish farms were introduced: http://fishfarmnews.blogspot.ca/2013/01/fish-farms-kill-more-than-50-of-wild.html

Monday, 13 January 2014

Salmon Fishing 2014

If you were impressed with chinook fishing last summer in the CRD, you will be happy again this year: http://www.sportfishing.bc.ca/docs/preliminary_2014_salmon_outlook_-_dfo.pdf. The overall comment is for improvement relative to 2013.  

Fraser River Summer Run 4-1 chinook numbers will be higher this summer; however, Fraser 5-2s and 4-2s are still in decline and may affect retention opportunities in our area. On the other hand, all three West Coast Van Isle hatchery rivers will have higher numbers of fish. The stocks are: Nootka Sound’s Conuma hatchery; Barkley Sound’s Robertson Creek hatchery; and, the Nitinat hatchery. All three areas should provide terminal chinook fisheries good enough to consider towing your boat over the humps.

Coho stocks are improved, including the Mid- and Upper-Fraser stocks that migrate through our area as well as Georgia Strait stocks – long in decline. This may result in some wild retention in addition to marked fish. Last summer’s fishing was for marked fish - lots of action but little keeping until late, in October. Thompson coho will come home in greater numbers, too. And WCVI coho remain abundant.

Cohen Commission Fraser sockeye indicate retention possibilities. Things look good for Early Stuart, Early Summer North Thompson, Summer Nechako, Fall Portage and Fall South Thompson. Somass sockeye fishing in Alberni Inlet should be good, too, with sockeye rated in abundance. Fraser components in decline include Early Summer Lower Fraser, Summer Raft, and Henderson rivers. As DFO does DNA analysis twice per week from saltwater entrances all the way to Mission, some openings may be afforded in the Victoria area.

There are two tantalizing factors for Fraser sockeye: the research catch rate for juvenile sockeye in 2012 was the highest since sampling began in 1998; and, ocean surface temperatures were cooler in 2012 than in the previous two years, a condition associated with more sockeye.

Pink salmon will be in short supply here because our predominant run is odd-year Frasers that last year produced a huge run of 26 Million fish. For 2014, if pinks are available, it will be Puget Sound fish. Up Island, for you fly guys, the even-numbered year is the higher pink return year, from Campbell River north to Port Hardy. Targets include a good half dozen estuaries including the Campbell, Amor de Cosmos, Salmon, Eve, Cluxewe, Keogh and Quatse. Expect pinks in average supply but recall that 2012 resulted in pink numbers so unexpectedly high that most fishers caught and released more than 100 salmon in a few days. One of my trips resulted in the phenomenal release of more than 350 pink salmon, with several days over 50. This release rate implies 700 on the line and well over 1,000 bites. So cross your fingers.

Fraser chum will be in average supply which typically means 1- to 2.75-million fish. The Brown’s Bay troll fishery looks good for late September and early October. Georgia Strait chum are also expected at average numbers. The Big Q typically returns 100,000 and the Cowichan roughly 250,000. Nitinat enhanced chum should be better than the average 300,000. One year, after 1.8 million were mopped up in the lake and outside the bar by commercial/aboriginal fishers, 658,000 made it into the river and anglers literally got soaked drifting through their huge schools.

An updated Salmon Outlook is expected in April, ahead of the summer season. And if you want to see what DFO is doing with the 2014 southern BC fishery plan, take a look at: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/mplans/2013/smon/smon-sc-cs-2013-eng.pdf. This is the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014. It is a superb source of information along with links on a variety of subjects for southern area stocks. The Plan for the 2014 fishery is not yet available.

Q and As – January 2014

Q and As – January 2014

Art Glass: A scientist from Campbell River told me DFO has destroyed seven of nine science libraries across Canada with the loss of all that science, particularly science that applies to water and rivers. They also closed the environmental experiment lakes in Ontario.

A: This Tyee article is a good summary of many of Harper Government (as Harper likes to call it) actions to dismantle our government science capability that Canadians have paid and continue to pay for:  http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/12/23/Canadian-Science-Libraries/?utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=231213..

The piece deals with closing the science library in Winnipeg, and then lists toward the bottom some of the other steps taken in the past year or so, including: gutting the Fisheries Act of environmental clauses (Sections: 35 and 36); doing the same thing with the Environmental Protection Act; firing scientists, including ones at Pat Bay; and other actions.

Chris Bos: The Board of Directors of the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition (SVIAC) and I would like to sincerely thank everyone for your memberships and support. During our first year, we have done a lot of work: 

 Secured official seats on the International Pacific Halibut Commission Conference Board and Provincial Government’s Freshwater Fisheries Regulations Advisory Committee;

2.   Launched a South Vancouver Island Chinook Revitalization initiative to increase local Chinook abundance;

3.  Attended numerous meetings and shared our vision with local angling businesses,  municipal, provincial and federal politicians, like-minded outdoor and angling associations, as well as some First Nations; and

4. Held our first Angling Alliance meeting with local angling clubs. 

A: Chris’ SVIAC email address is: chris@anglerscoalition.com. Get him to put you on his email list for the SVIAC Newsletter. The current one makes clear how much work is being done by the coalition in the early stages of forging alliances, outreach to politicians and contact with anglers and sport fishing businesses as ground work for chinook net pens in the Victoria area, among other things.

The AGM is Thursday, March 13, 2014, at the Sheraton at Four Points (behind Costco). They welcome volunteers.

FFSBC: The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC has released its annual report for 2013 which can be found at: www.gofishbc.com. Download the report:  http://www.gofishbc.com/about-us/who-we-are/our-annual-report.aspx.

The Society is now 10 years old and has delivered 92 million fish to British Columbians. Their vision says it all: [we aim to deliver] the best freshwater fisheries in North America. Its sterile triploid trout/char/kokanee are famous across the continent. Its work with white sturgeon in the Kootenay and Columbia is an international program with international partners, and introduces 7,000 juvenile sturgeon every year. In addition, the Society raised sufficient funding to build and operate a permanent recovery facility for Nechako sturgeon in Vanderhoof.

In the 15 years prior to the FFSBC, resident angling declined 30%. Reversing the trend has been a central focus of the organization. Since 2005 the Learn to Fish program has introduced fishing to more than 100,000 children and parents. Participants learn about freshwater ecosystems, fish biology, fishing techniques, ethics and catching some trout. Free gear is available for short-term use. Just ask.

Fishing piers and other structures have been put in across the province. The Fishing in the City program has brought fish to where the people live, making it much easier to get hooked, er, enjoy fishing close to home where you can take your finny friend for dinner rather than mounting a major expedition to trap a trout. Fifty percent of city anglers say local lakes are their number one fishing destination. Anglers under 25 and young families make up a significant proportion of participants. This is good for our sport.

Do note the neat photo of lucky Mike Keehn who gets to walk into the wilderness on a backpack fish release to Bear Lake. Science includes recirculation, reducing water needs 60- to70-% and 50% reductions in electrical consumption. Their Fishing Buddies program has been a huge success with 40,000 registered in a program that matches experienced anglers with beginners.

Here are the fish releases by species: Anadromous Cutthroat – 29,700; Coastal Cutthroat – 35.8 K; Easter Brook Char – 408.5; Kokanee – 4,242.5; Rainbow Trout – 4,457.7; Steelhead Trout – 34.9; Westslope Cutthroat – 18.5; White Sturgeon – 22.0; Lake Char – 14.3; and, Total – 9,264,100.

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