Sunday, 3 June 2018

DFO, Salmon and Killer Whales

The Sport Fishing Institute sent around a note – link at bottom – this past week asking for sport fishers to send a letter to DFO on the closing of sport fishing to put more chinook in the tummies of Southern Resident Killer whales. So, I wrote a letter to Dominic LeBlanc and also put it on one of my sites: Please write your own.

It is a cut to the chase piece that notes the problem is long term intransigence by DFO for both salmon habitat restoration and protecting killer whales. It is below. Immediately below is my second note to LeBlanc:

Hi Dominic (Letter also sent to Justin Trudeau, Andrew Weaver, Elizabeth May, Adam Olsen, Martin Paish, Chris Bos, Rebecca Reid, Sport Fishing Institute).

I sent a letter to you this past week noting that the chinook/killer whale problem is not going to be solved by closing sport fishing in selected areas. I have written on fisheries policy for 25 years, and the answer is: significantly increasing habitat restoration funding and netpens for chinook.

In the past four days, since posting the letter to my Fish Farm News and Science site, it has had an unprecedented response: 8,500 pageviews so far, virtually all from Canada. I used to write letters for ministers in the BC government, and know lists of issues are kept, and preparing responses is a meticulous, time consuming and costly activity. 

If 8,500 responses had been received, it would have shut down the branch preparing them for months. That is how big a response BC has to your ill-conceived plan that will solve nothing, other than make British Columbians angry. My plan will solve the problem. Please read it again.

After buying the Kinder Morgan pipeline with BC taxpayer money, you need a significant win in BC or you will be shut out in the next election. You will recall that BC was the balance of power in the last election.

DC Reid

Here is the first letter:

Hi Dominic et al

I want to tell you that it is greatly disappointing that after 40 years of DFO managing BC salmon into extinction, here we are today, with you eliminating recreational fishing in areas of the Salish Sea/Juan de Fuca Strait for killer whale food, when the real solution is for DFO to have been doing freshwater habitat restoration and hatchery epigenetics work at a rate that would have seen salmon stocks stay at the same level as in the 1960s.

What you are doing now is with almost extinction levels of Fraser chinook, feeding almost extinct killer whales that DFO has not been doing enough for over the decades, and finally, when it won’t save the whales, eliminating a sport fishery, and they will likely become extinct, anyway. Note that from the east all we hear from DFO is how 500 right whales are on the brink. Note that 76 BC orcas are only 15.2% of your eastern right whales.

Note the attached shot of a 1960’s morning’s sport catch from the Nahmint River, a small drainage in the Alberni Inlet. Where are the Nahmint and dozens of other chinook runs today, DFO?

Two things are required immediately: far greater money spent on freshwater habitat restoration, and netpens of chinook.
Freshwater Habitat Restoration

I think $100 million needs to be invested each year for the next 10 years to catch up. If you look at what $1.5 million did to the Clay Bank on the Cowichan River, it shows that money doesn’t go very far. I suggest you give the money to the Pacific Salmon Foundation because it leverages money 4 to 7 times, and the public, particularly students and sport fishers do most projects.

I spent more than a week’s time figuring out from DFO’s patchwork of data/reports (because DFO doesn’t have a final number) that there were, before escapement, 73 million salmon in the ocean. In perspective, this is 99.8% of all the salmon in Canada. Your eastern Atlantic salmon are a measly .2-to .4-million, or .2%.

In my estimation, there are four major problems that have lead to the downward spiral of wild BC salmon: lack of freshwater habitat restoration, DFO, in-ocean fish farms and climate change. We can change every major problem except climate change. 


I recommend an immediate establishment of a dozen netpens of 2 million chinook fry each. Use Robertson Creek and the Nitinat hatcheries for Juan de Fuca Strait, and Cowichan – a river that has had a large turnaround in the past few years – for Strait of Georgia. That means 24 million fry each year for the next ten years. The point is that it has to be done quickly to save the killer whales, and though it is 4 years to adults, if we wait, it is those years plus 4 years to adults. 

Pay attention to the issue of triploiding for netpens and epigenetics for an increased Salmon Enhancement Program in the specific rivers. And pay attention to the work done by the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition, Sooke netpen operation using Nitinat stock, now releasing its second crop. Funding comes from members, mostly anglers. And a seal cull would help.

Finally, after buying out Kinder Morgan, you liberals are in deep trouble in BC, on two major issues. You need to do something major quickly, and a recent poll shows that BC holds salmon as dear as Quebec does French.


DC Reid