Sunday, 26 October 2014

Q and As - October

Pacific Salmon Foundation: The PSF has received a major donation for its Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, a five year research effort to determine the causes of major declines of Coho and Chinook salmon in the Strait of Georgia in the past 20 years.

Tony Allard, President of Hearthstone Investments, pledged $250,000 to help the cause reach its funding goals. He said he was inspired by another major donor, Rudy North, who also pledged $250,000 earlier this year.

“This donation brings the fundraising campaign within striking distance of fully funding the $10 million project,” said PSF CEO Dr. Brian Riddell. “Roughly 80% of the budget has been raised from BC foundations, businesses, and non-governmental and governmental entities.”

Allard has a long association with salmon conservation on BC’s central coast, in Rivers Inlet, where he restored the Good Hope Cannery, as a lodge. In addition, he has contributed to conservation projects for the Whonnock River, the main source of River’s Inlet’s plus 50 pound chinook and the Snootli Creek hatchery.

See:, for news on the related projects. Briefly, scientists believe changes in the Salish Sea – Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca, as well as Puget Sound – have affected the numbers of coho, chinook and steelhead. They are at historic lows. Riddell has previously been quoted as saying he believes the potential for sport fishing revenue is an additional $400 to $500 million annually, in addition to the roughly $1 billion derived from salt- and fresh-water fishing in BC.

During the same years that coho and chinook numbers have been low, sockeye numbers, for the Fraser, have been their lowest and highest, while Fraser pinks return in healthy numbers. In addition, North Vancouver Island has had some of its finest fishing for local pink runs in the past few years, with Campbell River chinook slowly climbing, as well.

Allard said he was particularly encouraged by the focus on salmon-health research within the project. The PSF will work with Genome BC and DFO scientist Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders to inventory pathogens suspected of causing mortality in Pacific salmon. Miller was one of the lead scientists at the reconvened Cohen Commission into fish farm diseases. Readers will recall her phenotypic research revealed a ‘viral signature’ in returning stocks, particularly Fraser River sockeye. Farmed chinook in Clayoquot Sound were identified as having ISA and HSMI as well.

Sooke River chum: It’s time to take your gear and fly equipment out to Sooke to do the annual chum/coho fishery in Sooke Basin, the estuary and river. For Billing’s spit gear guys, a double glow, pale chartreuse squirt has been a consistent choice, as have pink Buzz Bombs. Do note that beach access to the left can often bring anglers to staging salmon, too. The silver bridge is the deemed boundary between saltwater retention rules and non-retention fly fishing in fresh water above.

For fly guys, take a few pink Woolly Buggers, as well as white with hot pink thread, many combinations of egg, double egg and egg-sucking leach patterns in pink and purple, along with large glo-brite orange chenille. Sooke is a tea-coloured river and thus purple is the best colour. Make sure to use circle hooks as it can be a tiring day for fish and fisher when tightly packed chum are foul-hooked rather than mouth-hooked.

The other day, I saw a young fly guy who had a good idea (although I was undecided whether it passed as legal fly fishing) on a day when the fish were simply aimless as the high tide approached. Here and there a few fish were on the bottom and occasionally rising to porpoise. They were spread out in small numbers, some almost on shore.

My read of the regs say that the Sooke is fly fishing only. People who fish the Campbell River, will know there is a distinction between fly fishing and artificial fly. The latter allows for the use of a float on the mainline, a weighted tag end and a leader ending in a hook with a yarn/wool ‘fly’. 

In other words, to gear guys this means the most common approach of a dink float and the etceteras. It is the standard way to fish chinook and chum in rivers, and relies on the fish passively biting the fly, meaning it takes hold of it as the fly comes toward its nose, and then lets it go. In between, the float goes under and the angler sets the hook.

For Campbell artificial fly guys, a strike indicator above and split shot before the fly, accomplishes the same thing. The lad was doing the artificial fly approach, but I think he was using a weighted fly, which is a sliver different from a split shot ahead, and perhaps could be construed to be fly fishing. He was the only person who received a mouth-hooked fish or two.

I would add that gear guys doing the river fishing thing for salmon - in rivers where it is allowed - should, in my view, be restricted to artificial fly or some version of a float fishery, the float passing down river, rather than lure being cast and reeled in. In September it is all too common for gear tackle to be a weight ahead of a hook that is cast across a wall of flesh, and then reeled in. The hook contacts a fish and foul hooks it. Only rarely will the hook be in a mouth, and some of those will be flosses. Float fishing done properly seldom foul hooks a fish.

Addams River sockeye: I spoke with ex-DFO-enforcement, and now author, Randy Nelson, the other day. He was in the water in the river as part of the annual spawning and tourist time in the interior. Some 3.5 million sockeye have come back to the river this year, a healthy number.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Index to

Three years ago I knew little about global farming of Atlantic salmon. I thought the story was: jobs, revenue and feeding a hungry world. Then I read a Science journal article dated January 9, 2004 by Hites et al from Albany University of New York. It detailed the persistent organic pollutants (POPs), PCBs, dioxins and other chemicals found in farmed salmon, and that cause, among other things, cancer.

Then I read an article by David Miller of Bath University, UK on how the fish farm industry had systematically attacked the article’s, and scientists’ credibility and ultimately ‘proven’ that Scotland’s farmed salmon were sustainable and organic. The problem was that Miller’s article read like a Hollywood thriller:

Since reading it, I have questioned everything fish farms say. Marine Harvest, Cermaq, Grieg Seafood, 90% of the BC industry, are all from Norway. I realized the threat their diseases pose to wild Pacific salmonids, and that BC is the first place where contact with the Pacific species has happened. The obvious solution: putting fish farms on land, has been persistently refused by the global Norwegian companies, Marine Harvest in 22 countries, for example.

To do my small part in standing for wild Pacific salmon, I started the blog: I had no idea it would become a global success, and, without any advertising, or anything other than putting up text, I have been stunned it has received 85,000 page views, with an acceleration to another 50,000 in the next year likely. To my surprise, I have received emails from all continents. Recently, a newspaper in Tasmania asked me for advice on how to deal with the industry moving there.

I have just placed all posts in an index so anyone interested has reference to all posts in one place. I go back and update posts, so even ones from three years ago can contain new information. Without doubt the post on the 69 Closed-Containment, On-land fish Farm Systems I have found around the world, and that comprise more than 8,000 actual farms, is far and away the most viewed post on the site. The world wants fish farms out of the ocean.

The purpose of the blog is to put up links to the science so anyone can read it and form their own opinions. I have read 20,000 pages of fish farm environmental damage science in the past three years, and often read 100 pages of fish farm news from around the world each week. There are times when my forecasts of global farmed fish prices and shares prove more accurate than the brokers in Oslo and New York who get paid to do what I do for free.

Any reader who wants to look into, say, the science of on-land, closed, recirculating fish farms can get there from links on the site. One link is to a symposium held in Shepherdstown, Virginia in Sept 2013. There are more than 50 presentations at this link and will keep you reading for days. They are fascinating:

Of great humour, Marine Harvest, Cermaq (now Mitsubishi?) and Grieg Seafood, who are unwilling to give their real names in my list of followers, follow my site closely and obviously read everything the second I post it; this is because almost 12,000 page views are from Norway; 1 in 7.

Currently, DFO is rewriting the aquaculture laws to allow fish farms to release anything they want from their farms into our oceans: chemicals, anti-fouling, diseases and sewage. My estimate of the last item is $10.4 Billion that we, taxpayers, in essence pay for. While this is bad, the BC industry could well be toast as its own parent companies in Norway successfully lobbied for the USA to remove a 26% tariff on their products – the US is the only real market of BC farmed fish, as in 85%, because Canadians won’t eat it. Chile, just back from the brink in 2008, losing a quarter of a billion fish to ISA disease, is at peak production and it goes into the States, too. In addition, Marine Harvest recently floated a bond in New York, and will be setting up in the USA soon. In other words, the BC industry may well be sacrificed by its own parent companies. Not a legal issue, simply economics.

In closing, Hites et al have gone on to publish several articles over the intervening decade about the chemical pollutants in farmed fish. And the big story in Norway the past year is their own scientists and doctors telling consumers, particularly mothers and children, not to eat farmed salmon because of the health issues to do with eating those chemicals.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Poachers, Polluters and Politics by Randy Nelson – Harbour Publishing 2014

Everyone who fishes for salmon should read Randy Nelson’s new book about being a Fisheries Officer for Fisheries and Oceans Canada (commonly known as DFO). He started with DFO in Saskatchewan in 1976, then moved to BC and rose over the years to become Regional Director of Conservation and Protection, before retiring in 2013.

Typically, we only run into enforcement officers when they zoom up in a DFO vessel checking for fish, fishing licences and, more recently, boat licences. Alternatively, we may be asked on a river for a freshwater licence and have hooks checked for crushed barbs. Pretty benign stuff, but these are not the average enforcement situations that officers face.

They work long hours, frequently all night, and standoffs with poachers and, in the past, with aboriginals, did and does present extreme danger. Nelson was hit with an oar so hard in Gill Bay, early in his career, that it broke his shoulder. He was shot at, almost run down, stabbed and frequently in conflict with staff above him in the bureaucracy. The reality is whether a family man wants to do such a job – and his wife has to agree – when it is so dangerous. He says that North American stats show a fish or wildlife officer is eight times more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer. Often, DFO enforcement staff are also auxiliary RCMP.

In being led across an ice river to a meeting in Grenville on the Nass, by a snowmobile, he and a fellow officer were deliberately led to a spot of thin ice with the intention of them going through. He found this out at the meeting when a local aboriginal, someone he knew, took him outside to tell him that the spot always had thin ice, but a snowmobile never went through because it spread the weight out, unlike a human foot. When he addressed the meeting he told them he knew someone tried to kill them, the meeting was over and he would not come back.

That blunt, straight forward, balls approach lead to higher compliance, and, in the long run, better relations with the chiefs and aboriginals. Nelson seemed to have a gift for honesty, and also was a competitive runner with size 13 feet, who won dozens of races over the years. On many, many occasions, working in the dark, officers surrounded poachers and anyone who ran got run down. His approach was to run them until they dropped from exhaustion and couldn’t argue.

In the Lillooet area, Nelson watched a poacher through binoculars dipping into the river in a canyon, catching more than a dozen sockeye. He then crept down and tapped the ‘angler’ on the shoulder, handed him a ticket and asked him to help carry the confiscated fish up the 200 vertical foot rise. When the poacher refused, Nelson cut some tree branches to string the fish through the gills, and ran up the hill with the tackle box and rod under his arm as well. The poacher dragged his carcass up after him and keeled over at the truck. Nelson learned from this not to tell the poacher about the tickets until the fish were up the hill.

At one spot on the Nass, Nelson found a hollow cottonwood tree that he drilled a hole in on the river-side and ran the three miles from his office every day – so he would not have a truck sitting there – and watched boats coming and going, off-loading fish and etc. Then he sauntered onto the local reservation and struck up conversations with individuals he had kept stats on, asking them how the fishing was. They were, of course, shocked that he would know they had been out and gave him lowball estimates of their catch. He would then correct them and tell them how many fish they really had, the species, size and so on to the surprised person. He did this for several weeks and locals began to think he had psychic powers because he was always correct. Consequently, compliance improved dramatically, and no one ever discovered the ruse.

Later in his career, Nelson took part in healing circles and became a supporter of restorative justice as a process for all parties to tell how an offence struck them and affected them. This led to much better relations between DFO and Fraser aboriginals, particularly in years where commercial and sport fisheries took place in saltwater but aboriginal fisheries were curtailed. It is understandable they would be upset, and in one such face to face, while conservation needs ultimately were agreed to by both sides, the give in the situation was for elders to fish for a set number of fish in a reduced year. Enlightened.

Toward the end of his career, Nelson had a large canoe named after him, and his name inscribed in the Shuswap language. He sites there has not been a major confrontation in the last seven years and that new officers undergo sweats and talks with elders. And enforcement undertakes a First Nation’s Youth Conference annually, as in, things are better than they used to be.

Over the years, Nelson met a lot of DFO people of whom most readers will know: Terry Tebbs, the irascible, no-bull Bill Otway even into his last days with cancer, Paul Sproat who actually went out on a soaking, night mission and ministers Brian Tobin and John Fraser. Tobin cut through the layers of bosses between him and Nelson, telling him to phone him directly. Nelson did this on occasion, and results came quickly. Fraser was seen as an honest, ‘let’s do what the salmon need most’ minister, and he is praised even into his retirement years when he made submissions to the Cohen Commission on behalf of wild salmon.

Nelson, too, made a submission to Cohen (1), the most difficult problem being that various bosses of his took notes on the proceedings (which were of course, transcribed, from voice tape, anyway) and having to work with the on-going intimidation of losing his job.

In earlier years, Fraser headed up the Fraser River Sockeye Public Review Board, receiving testimony from all areas of DFO. If you have seen the video tape of Dr. Kristi Miller, during Cohen, saying that fish farm diseases may be the smoking gun, you will have seen the same squirm Nelson may have had to endure.

Fraser was shocked at the reduced levels of enforcement staff, and recommended the Director of Conservation and Protection post that Nelson subsequently filled. The same recommendations had been made in the 1982 Pearse Commission report, something that DFO staff above enforcement were against. Fraser said the lack of funding amounted to an abdication of the government’s constitutional responsibilities.

And, of course, most readers will recall the Fisheries Act being gutted of its sections on deleterious substances, S35 and 36, in the omnibus ‘budget’ bill of 2013. Nelson points out that such recommendations seldom were implemented as DFO would work around them until they were forgotten and then get back to their agenda.

At a meeting in Ottawa, senior DFO managers sought to eliminate the upstart enforcement branch notion, telling Nelson they did not want him at the meeting largely because his counter parts across the country did not want him there. Taking the direct approach – he does this several times in recounting his career – Nelson went out, phoned all his counterparts and they all said they strongly wanted him at the meeting. So he told the assembled managers and all looked away, having been caught lying. If you have ever worked for government, imagining having to work through such a situation is excruciating, and career threatening.

This is a book to pick up and read. You will know many of the situations over the years that he reconstructs. He points out near the end that aquaculture is the only method of farming that he is aware of that is allowed to discharge raw, untreated effluent and chemicals into fish-bearing waters. I have calculated an estimate and it is about $10 billion dollars of effluent that passes into the pristine waters of BC. There are many stories in this book that are worth knowing, and you will witness growing respect for DFO enforcement staff that you may not have had in the past.

1.      Okay, I can’t help but throw in some of his Cohen notes: BC/Yukon handle half of all violations in Canada with one third the enforcement staff; of 600 First Nations in Canada, 200 are in BC; we have 400,000 fishers and the largest freshwater fishery in North America, bigger than the entire eastern regions; the landed-value of fish is greater than any eastern region; habitat work is greater than in any eastern region; we have the largest number of species listed under the Species at Risk Act; BC has 27,000 miles of coastline, more than most of the eastern regions, and the same as Newfoundland; BC is 14.3% of the country; the Maritimes only 5.8%; the miles of salmon streams are greater than all the Maritime provinces combined; BC has one Fishery Officer for every 24,000 residents; NL has 1:4,600; Gulf, 1:8000; and Maritimes, 1:6000.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Provincial Framework for Steelhead Management in BC

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations released a document for steelhead management in July of 2014. Intended as a high level document, the policy sets province-wide standards that will be used to interpret and implement local management efforts in specific areas of the province. See:

The province has to produce enhancement efforts in the context of a wild steelhead based fishery, taking into account different stakeholder interests, and in the context of salmon harvest in both saltwater and freshwater, that have differing levels of mortality for steelhead. The primary focus is to provide recreational and aboriginal, fisheries consistent with long-term sustainability of wild steelhead populations.  Then there are the exceptional fisheries that are classified to make them retain peak experiences. The report points out that it also has to be considered that there are alternate freshwater retention fisheries supplied by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC.

The important word is ‘wild’ because enhancement efforts tend to reduce wild steelhead numbers, and most of coastal waters, with notable exceptions like the Skeena and its world famous tributaries, like the Sustet, have populations seldom exceeding 100 to 200 adults in a wild run. Maintaining genetic diversity is its own goal, but the context is different runs having different marine survival rates, with environmental shifts lasting a decade, but that can influence recovery or decline for up to several decades.

The document is 29 pages of varying density and will take a couple of hours to read. Two of the appendices warrant your considered look. Table A-2 lists all the summer and winter runs in BC. A Van Isle angler typically considers the east side for winter steelhead and the west side for summers. But the actual runs don’t necessarily mirror common perception. There are only 8 summer runs on Van Isle’s east coast, compared with, as expected, a larger number of populated drainages on the west side, at 23; for winter steelhead, there are 28 on ECVI, but a much larger number on WCVI, at 72. Not expected. But many drainages are short, or have limited productivity areas, say the Franklin, for instance, on WCVI.

Do read the Abundance and Productivity section in the appendices, p20-21, because it discusses natural productivity variables with reference to actual rivers in BC, many of which you will know. A northern BC smolt may take five years in the Upper Sustet to reach smoltification, while in the Chilliwack (aka, the Vedder) it is one to two. The following Status section discusses productivity over time – as much as several decades. And the counterintuitive inverse pattern of abundance in the 1980s and 1990s for northern and southern stocks.

There are over 400 stocks of wild steelhead in BC. Stocks north of Bella Coola improved in numbers in the 1980s and were considered healthy in the 1990s. Southern stocks doubled in size in the 1980s but suffered severe declines in the 1990s with many reaching the extreme conservation concern, for example, the Englishman. Surprisingly, the declines were most extreme in southern ECVI rivers with enhanced runs – leading to the conclusion that enhancement can only be justified in terms of providing a retention fishery for anglers. Then, in 2009, numbers for some southern Van Isle rivers began climbing, including the Cowichan. Knowing the rest of the rivers of this group, and that they are very wild and fragile, I leave it to you to look them up yourself.

Appendix 5 lists the annual hatchery-delivered smolt release figures for Van Isle rivers and the rest of BC. The Stamp, for instance was 70,000 winters and 30,000 summers in 2013; the Quatse and Cluxewe winter numbers were 15,000 and 20,000 respectively.

Of interest, some steelhead runs show a shift away from anadromy at low abundance, meaning they residualize as freshwater residents. Having caught steelhead of 1 – 2 pounds in many VI rivers, I have often wondered about their origin. In the Big Q, a hatchery river, May can be an exceptional month for bushy, white, dry Mayflies for obviously sexually mature ‘rainbows’ of diminutive size, which as most reaches of the river are easily reached and are empty of these fish throughout the year, may suggest a localized, short saltwater phase.

You may be surprised to know that the long-term counting fence facility on the Keogh River provides the only direct measure of marine survival for steelhead in BC. Of course, the angler survey has collected data for a long time as well – since 1967.