Monday, 23 May 2016

Chinook Zones: Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits

You will have heard that the Fraser River aboriginals asked DFO, as Fraser sockeye are low this year, to shut down sport access to Fraser chinook in Haro and Juan de Fuca straits in May to July, so that they can take them for food and ceremonial purposes, in river.

The sport side of this, as explained by the South Vancouver Island Angler Coalition and the Sport Fishing Institute, is: we have cut down our take 77% since 2010; we only take a few fish due to size limits and hatchery fish retention; and, this is not a conservation reason for taking away our catch, it is simply reassigning fish from one group to another, hence should not occur. 

A rough estimate of our area’s annual revenue is: local licences/all licences X total revenue, in other words: 30,000/300,000 X $500,000,000 = $50 million. When I crunched the entire BC numbers, I came up with a figure of $2.52 Billion for saltwater, sport, commercial, processing and all freshwater fishing. This implies that the rough estimate is probably conservative. In other words, lots of cash is at stake in the decision.

DFO put out a new notice, FN0419, on May 18, that sets out fishing plans for the various sectors:
“In 2016, the Department has identified concerns associated with expected poor returns of Fraser River Spring 5-2 and Summer 5-2 chinook. Management of these stocks is based on an in-season assessment of returns using the cumulative catch per unit effort (CPUE) of chinook caught at the Albion Test Fishery. A three zone management approach is used to identify management actions.”

I asked them what the zones meant and was sent the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP), Southern BC, for 2016 and 2017. All stats junkies and need-to-be-informed types can get the document at the link below – only a 400 pager, and vey thorough. If only they would spend this kind of cash on habitat restoration (on Van Isle, for example, log cabling is desperately needed on rivers like the San Juan that are choked with logging-damage gravel from the past century).

Going on, FN 4019 says: “In 2016, the Albion chinook test fishery began operating on April 24. The total catch for the period of this update (May 1 to May 13) was zero (0) chinook. Based on this input, the current predicted return to the mouth of the Fraser for the Fraser River Spring 5-2 and Summer 5-2 chinook aggregates is less than 25,000 fish.” The mesh is 8 inches.

The information on zones begins on p 139, and is in Table 1-10. There are three zones, each of which corresponds to a level of fish, and fishery decisions. At only 25,000 fish, 2016 is in the lowest category, Zone 1. Its upper limit is 45,000 fish, with the expectation of spawner numbers at 30,000 or less, or extremely low spawning populations.

The management actions are: 1. By-catch retention/limited directed First Nations fisheries; 2. Non-retention/closed recreational and commercial chinook fisheries in the Fraser River and tributaries and, 3. Management actions to reduce by-catch or incidental harvest in other recreational and commercial fisheries.

So, what does that mean to the price of beer? Well, the fish number is very low. Only four years of the 34 between 1979 to 2012 had fewer than 30,000 chinook. In other words, for Juan de Fuca (Cadboro Point to Sheringham Point, 19-1 to 19-4, and 20-5.), we are unlikely to get those four-year-old Frasers that are typically longer than 85 centimetres – as indicated below.  

From the IFMP, in DFO’s words:

“March 1 through June 17th, two chinook per day which may be wild or hatchery marked between 45 and 67 cm or hatchery marked greater than 67 cm in Subareas 19-1 to 19-4 and 20-5.

Zone 1:  June 18th through July 15th, two chinook per day which may be wild or hatchery marked between 45 and 85 cm or hatchery marked greater than 85 cm.

Zone 2 and 3:  June 18th through July 15th, two chinook per day of which only one may be greater than 67 cm.  (This measure is to protect Spring 4-2 chinook.)”

The next update will be May 31. Until then we are in Zone 1. On a positive note, the Fall 4-1s -  Harrisons - look to be 75- to 98-thousand fish, so expect something later in the summer.


          Of interest, the 4-2, 5-2 stock names we throw around are defined in the document: Spring 4-2: STh Besette Creek, LThom spring age 4; Spring 5-2: LFR springs, LFR Upper Pitt, FR Canyon – Nahatlatch, MFR Springs, UFR Spring, NTh spring age 5; Summer 5-2: LFR Summer, MFR Portage, MFR Summers, STh summer age 5, NTh summer age 5; Summer 4-1, Maria Slough STh summer age 4, Shuswap River summer age 4, Upper Adams River; and, Fraser Fall 4: LFR fall whites. These are further dis-aggregated, starting on p 135 to specific rivers, for example, Bonaparte, Nicola and so on.

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