Sunday, 30 December 2018

Options for a Made-In-BC Wild Salmon Strategy – Comments for the Wild Salmon Secretariat

Goal 1 – Increase the Abundance of Wild Salmon in BC

You say billions have been spent on salmon restoration. I don’t agree. Take the current $100 Million from DFO announced in Dec 2018. Wilkinson’s news releases are short on details and long on generalities of expenditures, for example, science and fish farms. These are not direct spending on increasing wild salmon. So, no, this is not $100M for wild salmon.

Having said this, putting money into fresh water habitat restoration is the number one need for bringing back wild salmon.

1.1  Protect critical salmon habitats from loss or degradation. 

Yes, protect habitat from loss or degradation before it happens so money doesn’t need to be spent on restoring habitat not yet destroyed. Do convince DFO to make the Fisheries Act clear in this regard – the HADD provisions for example.

I would not spend cash on creating a list of provincial waters, as this takes cash away from habitat restoration. Similarly, I am not convinced that using scarce dollars to create a BC fisheries ministry is worthwhile, compared with putting money directly into salmon. But say more and I could be convinced, as it supports BC taking over salmon restoration/enhancement/governance/marketing in the long run.

(Since I wrote this, I came upon a study in my many deep piles of salmon research that did a comprehensive look at all salmon bearing waters in BC, and thus is a place to start in the enumeration process. I have alerted the Secretariat that I have the report, in a photocopy, and will show it to them in due course. It is called: Opportunities for Salmonid Enhancement Projects in British Columbia and the Yukon, 1983. It included escapements, increases with enhancement and cost information. The Co-Chairs were: AF Lill and A Tautz).

1.2 STRATEGY Invest in the restoration of critical salmonid habitats that have been
lost or degraded.

Yes, this is the most important need for cash to bring back wild salmon. Put $15M into the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) annually for freshwater habitat restoration. They leverage money 4 to 7 times and thus a decade of investment equals $600- to $1050-million for salmon. The biggest infusion of cash ever for wild salmon. Ask DFO to put the same amount in as well, but don’t wait for them to come on board. BC has authority to do freshwater habitat restoration.

Yes, to opportunity 1.
Yes, to op 3, though less to estuaries, other than prime ones like the Fraser. Put money into the PSF.
Yes, to op 4, get people involved with doing restoration in their own areas. They will do it, particularly local sport fishers.
Yes, to op 5. Try to remove dams where feasible.
Yes, to op 6. Culverts are a major area where work is needed. Memory suggests 70,000 with electrical potential problems and construction that impedes salmon rising beyond them. This will take years and big dollars.

1.3 STRATEGY Increase the production of juvenile salmon under controlled conditions.

Yes, to increased numbers of fry. Use epigenetics to keep them as near to wild as possible. Use netpens of diploided and triploided sterile salmon, particularly chinook for SRKWs, to put more fish in the sea, and fish that do not go back to rivers, can’t mate. They return to netpen sites for harvest for our Indigenous peoples. It makes no sense to cut our numbers if our global partners don’t; that is shooting ourselves in the foot. (Since I wrote this, I now have the current PSF Salmon Steward which recommends what I have suggested: netpens. See:

Yes, to op 1. It is the crux of the matter on this strategy. Review the really stellar things already done, like the chum spawning channel on the Big Q and the coho channels in the trees of the Taylor River above Sproat Lake. The San Juan River has lots of flat land that could have the same type of restoration as the Taylor. Any river with flat areas can provide ops.
Yes, to op 2.
Yes, to op 3. Are you aware that DFO’s Salmon Enhancement Program has been beggared over the decades because it is put in the Conservation and Protection Budget for annual budgeting purposes? This has led to it being a bargaining chip in the annual national process, and thus being beggared. Let’s tell DFO to put it elsewhere so this does not happen.

1.4 STRATEGY Consider predator, exotic and invasive species management programs.

Yes, to a targeted seal/sea lion cull. The PSF work shows that they eat chinook and coho fry in the Strait of Georgia at 40% and 47% respectively.

Yes, to having our Indigenous peoples do river swims and eliminate Atlantic salmon and progeny. John Volpe’s work shows that of the Van Isle rivers he swam, that 97% have adults and fry. This is shocking and has to stop.

1.5 STRATEGY Actively engage First Nations in the protection, restoration and enhancement activities associated with wild salmon.

Yes, and yes to funding Indigenous work. I have seen their river crew on North Van Isle and they look good and have purpose in their lives.

And yes, to funding their work in remote areas, for example, the Wannock chinook in Rivers Inlet. The Owikeno sockeye have been decimated and the Clayoquot Sound Kennedy Lake sockeye were wiped out by commercial fishing in the ‘90s, but with 22 fish farms, they have never come back. And let’s support them by having the PRV salmon processing companies sterilize their processing water.

GOAL 2: Support and encourage greater community engagement with wild salmon

Yes, I have read that poll (BC residents consider salmon are as important as Quebecers think French is important) and agree that the Liberals are in deep trouble if they continue beggaring wild salmon in BC and if they actually build the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

2.1 STRATEGY In collaboration with DFO, engage communities more directly and
deliberately in the stewardship of their adjacent resources.

I am dubious of DFO in Ottawa being a productive partner. I would engage communities in a way that if DFO does not come along easily, that BC does it. Plan for this eventuality, right at the beginning.

Yes, to ops 1 and 2. Of 2, make it clear that this is a made-in-BC Wild Salmon Strategy.
Yes, to op 3. Put together a cheaper model than a corporation or registered charity for towns/groups to set up and run their programs. As it stands, these are expensive, have annual audit requirements, need for complex bylaws, boards and etc.
Yes, to op 4, curriculum material taught in schools, so all kids understand salmon, and thus nature.
Yes, to 5, and note my comment in 3.
Yes to 6, a tax/charge for harvesting opportunities spent in the local areas. A direct link from one to the other in each area.
Yes to 7, and a few technical people that citizens in local level restoration/enhancement work can access. Keep the focus on restoration, not more staff.

2.2 STRATEGY Seek ways to advance a positive and collaborative federal-provincial-Indigenous Peoples framework to better support the stewardship and management of BC’s marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats important to wild salmon. This framework must include the active and effective engagement of resource users and fishing communities.

Rationale – I am glad that you recognize that BC has authority for freshwater, as that is the crux of the issue. Thus, this is a made-in-BC Wild Salmon Plan.

Rationale – I am glad that you recognize that “the members of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council caution governments not to put structure before function. The top priority and focus must remain on actions to assure salmon abundance.”

Op 1. I am dubious that a tri-level agreement will be functional. Place more emphasis on BC, BC public, BC Indigenous people.
Op 2. My calculation is that sport fishing revenue in salt- and fresh-water is $2.52B, far in excess of the figure we commonly use, so keep that in mind. I am dubious of the BC fisheries body, until the freshwater habitat restoration needs of wild salmon is achieved. Don’t waste time and money on bureaucratic structure that should be spent on salmon.
Op 3. I say no. Canadians don’t identify with BC salmon and should be left out of this. This is a BC program for BC. The only use for ‘Canadians’ is selling something for money to DFO.

2.3 STRATEGY Create mechanisms to ensure that all active commercial fish harvesters are able to participate in decisions made about BC’s fisheries resources.

Yes, we want to eliminate ‘slipper skippers’, Jimmy Pattison groups, and provide a structure like the Sport Fish Advisory Board for commercial participants. However, this one seems like a red herring to me, as if I were a commercial sector member, I would have lobbied until there was such a body connected to government long ago.

2.4 STRATEGY Create collaborative structures of governance that recognize aboriginal rights and respond to Indigenous Peoples’ FSC and economic interests with respect to wild salmon management

Please note that this item has caused acrimonious relations between the First Nation and Sport sectors, particularly on the Fraser River approach waters, for a very long time. It is a perennial subject in Sport Fish Advisory Board annual reviews of fishing opportunities.

I don’t see a problem with direct sales within First Nation sites. This has been going on informally for decades, the Tseshaht in Port Alberni, for instance.

Op 1. I think that this one takes a back-burner position and does not get in the way of bringing back wild salmon. I see this as taking some long term selling to the sectors and public of BC, and would be disappointed for it to cause a stumbling block for the entire project/process. Having said that, I am happy that BC Indigenous peoples will be involved in monitoring the Broughton Archipelago fish farms, a subject that directly compares with this one. Let’s see some positive results from that so that the public has a reason to think that a similar process here may also see some benefit, before committing to it.                                                                 
Op 3. Yes, to a transparent, effective completion of Cohen recommendations. DFO has already written off the subject as completed. They need to know that BC does not agree. We want concrete results: appropriations, dollars to function and FTEs (full time equivalents, ie., actual people) for each of the 75 recommendations that Cohen made.  
Op 4. We need more information to make a reasoned response to this one: Pacific Salmon Commission renegotiation of the treaty between the USA and Canada. 

GOAL 3: Protect and enhance the economic, social and cultural benefits that accrue to BC communities from wild salmon and other seafood resources.

The BC Stats Report has the best stats – see table below. They are the government’s own current stats. (An updated report comes out early in 2019).

1.     Commercial employment has been cut in half to 1400 since fish farms have been in the province. Fish farms don’t create employment, they replace jobs that they eliminate with their environmental damage.
2.     Sport employment is the highest in the table at 8400. You want to back the sport sector.
3.     Aquaculture employment is only 12.2% of total employment.
4.     Aquaculture GDP contribution is tiny compared with the other salmon sectors. And fish farms are only 90% of the figure, or, in other words, only contribute $55.7 million to GDP. This means that the lion’s share of revenue of $469 million goes back to Norway to be distributed to shareholders. Fish farms don’t bring revenue and jobs as they claim. The claim is false. And the environmental side is even worse. I have references for the following figures: the sport sector, salt and fresh water brings in $2.52 billion revenue; fish farms kill 5.76 billion forage fish to bring in one crop in BC; the sewage cost is $10.4 billion; GDP effect is only 9%. It makes no sense to have fish farms in the water.


3.1 STRATEGY: Encourage initiatives and champion regulatory changes that will enhance
economic opportunity for commercial fish harvesters, vessel owner-operators, their local communities and economies.

Put a $10 fee on saltwater licences and as there are 300,000 licences annually, this means $3 million. Put this money into freshwater habitat restoration.

Yes, to op 1.
Qualified yes, to op 2. I don’t see DFO being a committed member, given their lack of results in the past 40 years. Be prepared from the outset to go it alone as a made-in-BC plan. In my opinion, the Standing Committee as well as the Senate committee are light weights and badly informed, particularly on fish farm issues.
Op 3. Include the sport sector in this agreement, or there will be trouble. The Sport Fish Advisory Board has a long-term issue with Indigenous people, particularly with the Fraser allocation of fish.
Op 4. This sounds good, but I would have to see results before believing it.
Op 5. Yes, to getting rid of ‘slipper skippers’ and Pattison Group types buying up quota, thereby eliminating local business. And let’s stop the herring roe fishery for a decade to bring back wild salmon. It also makes sense to foster Indigenous harvest for public sale, like herring roe on pine boughs, clams, prawns and so on.
Yes, to op 6. The items you note sound good: “Options may include: innovative fleet development such as licence banks; the diversification of access; the development of new and underutilized species; and innovative programming including loan funds and community quota.”
Yes, to op 7. Let’s foster the individual, individual businesses and those who are direct harvesters.

3.2 STRATEGY Support activities that encourage new entrants, particularly next generation Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, into the commercial and recreational fishing sectors.

Rationale – yes. But do this after money has been spent and there are results from wild salmon restoration funding, or there will be nothing for new entrants to do. This is a down the road objective.
Yes, to op 4. The others depend on salmon being brought back, but this one funds people to do freshwater habitat restoration, the most important item in the whole report. The rest of the items are dependent on the salmon resource being healthy.

3.3 STRATEGY Support processing and value-added opportunities that help to retain
more of the landed value of the resource at the community level.

This is a good idea but will require advertising and marketing fostered by the province. The seafood sector is growing almost exponentially on a global level – I follow the global fish farm/seafood industry, receiving 30 global press newsletters each week – and it is time to stake out a territory and execute to claim our niche. I can help with this if you wish.

Qualified yes to op 1. Make a point of fostering different kinds of seafood, for example, seaweed, aqua algae feed and insect meal. Additionally, on-land shrimp is a huge global business. Vietnam expects to exceed $8B in exports and is a world leader in shrimp farming. We can beat them because many consumers don’t believe that Asian product is safe to eat. We also have transport advantages over much of the rest of the industry, for example, Ecuador, trying to ship into Canada.
Yes, to op 2. It makes sense to do the ‘value added’ work of consumer foods. Have someone follow the seafood press: Undercurrents, Ultrafish, Seafood News, Fish Farming Expert and so on, for ‘value added’ information. The UK does a lot of this. So, follow the UK in the global press.

And you should set up on-land fish farms, as they are now the big business side of the industry. In the USA the big four coming on stream are: Atlantic Sapphire, Nordic Aquafarms, Aquabanc and Whole Oceans. At 218,000mt, they are two and a half times the size of the BC industry and have the consumer interest in environmental protection. They may well put the BC industry out of business, unless it moves to on-land. Furthermore, the PE Fund is aiming at an additional 260,000mt of global output, and my list of on-land fish farms has far greater on-land output: 260 different global farms:

With Indigenous people, and fish farm employees looking for the security of a land job, as in-ocean are wound down, put up a 33,000mt on land farm on northern Vancouver Island, to get into this nascent global market. Consider whether the Kuterra plant could be redesigned as part of the decision to build. It may save money to repurpose a plant, rather then build from scratch.

But, do note, that op 2 for traditional product only works after wild salmon have been brought back.
Yes, to op 3. There is existing friction with DFO handing out tickets to sport anglers transporting more than their own fish to a facility. Also, to investigate the transport to and from processing facilities, get in touch with several remote sport lodges, for example in Haida Gwaii, because they already do this. It is common that sport tourists get their fish processed while at the lodge, and then the lodge transports them to Terminal 2 at the Vancouver Airport for pick up. Any other processing is arranged for sport tourists and then shipped to them from the processor already processed into cans, smoked, frozen fillets and so on, anywhere on the globe. So, there is good experience already doing this.
Yes, to op 3. Look back at op 2 for details.

3.4 STRATEGY Support increased opportunities for fishery-related tourism

Rationale – please, please use the word ‘sport’ fishing rather than recreational fishing. The latter is a DFO phrase and it belittles the industry. And your stat of $1.3B as revenue is incorrect. The salt- and fresh-water sport revenue is $2.52 Billion. I recalculated this figure and it was published by the Pacific Salmon Foundation in their quarterly report.

This is how I calculated the $2.52 Billion revenue figure:

Yes, to op 1. I can help you do this. Note my calculation above. I have heavy-duty number crunching skills from having worked for BC’s Treasury Board Staff. I will stack my skills up against anyone. And I will be crunching the new BC Stats Report when Agriculture releases it in early 2019. If the method has been changed, I will be pointing out every place they have strayed from the 2012 BC Stats Report.
A qualified yes to op 3. Problems are the amount of cash, and if problems occur, then the province has them on its back.
A qualified yes to op 4. Creel surveys have been fraught with problems over the decades between sport and DFO, including Indigenous people. But stats make it easy to manage salmon numbers more accurately, and make it ‘management by BC,’ not the feds.
And other figures can be calculated, like the value of a chinook or coho when caught in the sport sector. If memory serves me correctly, the figure for one sport chinook was, in the mid ‘90s, $62.

3.5 STRATEGY Increase the overall value accruing to BC’s seafood and seafood products
in the global marketplace.

Rationale – yes, I agree, and have made many points in the strategies above that apply here. The global market for seafood is exploding, and there is room for both wild and farmed salmon – particularly farmed on land, as consumers no longer want salmon that comes with environmental damage. There are transport advantages in North America for on-land, and around the world, smoked, canned, frozen, fillets. And, right now is the best time to get in on the on-land market: it is proven, cost effective, and consumer supported.

Also, consider putting together a BC stamp for putting on products sold globally, as seal of approval and quality.

Yes, to op 2. I can tell you how to do this.
Qualified yes, to op 3. The issue is: ‘where can we make the most money, and jobs?’ Is it best to have BC processing for part or whole of the processing? For example, there is a global market for headed, gutted, fresh salmon. Do we make more money, doing this part of processing and shipping product, or can we make more money by value adding to canned, fileted, smoked, prepared meals, school lunches, vacuuming packing and so on, as is currently done around the world. It is an economic issue and the economists at BC Stats can figure this out.
Re op 4: if you get in touch with the remote sport fishing lodges, you would be able to figure much of this out. Also, if you have a staff person put together a list of the parts, and ask each of them, what could we do to help you, I would bet you would get good feed back.
Re op 5: there would be in-season bottlenecks.

Thanks for all this work. Let’s move forward with a BC plan to save BC wild salmon.

Sunday, 16 December 2018


Every year, DFO puts together salmon stats from across the province and ranks each area according to health and fishing opportunities on a scale from 1 to 4. Three and four are approaching health or healthy, and thus where fishing can be anticipated.

It is an elaborate and costly process requiring good statistics in the many outlook units (OU) across the province. Overall, I would say that our salmon have been dwindling away for a very long time, and the four big issues are: freshwater habitat restoration, DFO, fish farms and climate change.

As you will know from the SRKW issue, DFO, in Ottawa, (this distinction needs always be made as there are loads of good DFO people in BC) is trying to feed extinction level killer whales with extinction level Fraser chinook salmon and eliminating fishing opportunities. It was their responsibility to avoid this situation, but they failed, and have done so for a very long time. It should not have gotten to this situation, and without some form of enhancement, it is unlikely the problem will be solved.

Here is a post I did on the SRKW issue, and the solutions: Since writing it I have received input from some of the environmental organizations, and include, at the bottom, their take, which does not, in some cases, agree with what I have concluded, and you should consider reading what they have to say.

The Salmon Outlook says, in summary:

“A total of 91 Outlook Units (OUs) were considered with 82 OUs receiving an outlook category assignment. Eight (8) OUs were data deficient (ND), and one (1) Pink OU was not applicable given that 2019 is the off-cycle year for this group (NA). Sixteen (16) Outlook Units are expected to be at or above target abundance (categories 3, 3/4, 4), while 39 are expected to be of some conservation concern (categories 1, 1/2, 2). The remaining 27 Outlook Units have mixed outlook levels (categories 1/3, 1/4, 2/3, 2/4). Overall, the outlook for 2019 has declined relative to the previous outlook (2018 for most species but 2017 for Pink Salmon).

Five (5) Outlook Units improved in category (Sockeye: Somass, WCVI-Other, Skeena-Wild; Chinook: Alsek; Coho: WCVI). Twenty-five (25) units declined in category (Sockeye: Early Summer - North Thompson, South Thompson, Mid and Upper Fraser, Summer - Late Stuart, Nechako, Quesnel, Harrison, Raft, Fall - South Thompson, Birkenhead, as well as Okanagan and Coastal Areas 3 to 6; Coho: Area 3, Haida Gwaii - East (Area 2 East), Skeena, Skeena – High Interior; Pink: Fraser, Georgia Strait – East, West, North Coast Areas 3 to 6; Chum: Fraser River, Johnstone Strait Area and Mainland Inlets, Coastal Areas 5 & 6, Areas 7 to 10, Yukon).”

The document is a full 32 pages of technical information and you can get it from DFO.

So, here are the places we can expect good fishing opportunities in 2019:

Sockeye: the best plan this year is to take your boat over the hump to Port Alberni as the Somass run is in good shape this year. Typically, this is a late May, and June fishery, at China Creek, mid-channel and so on. The full combat armour Papermill Dam fishery for shore anglers will also see some retention, at this agreed tidal limit on the Somass. Fishing commences when there are 200,000 sockeye in the approach waters, and things look good this year. The 2015 four-year olds went to sea as the Blob was declining, and their salt water time was under a La Nina, cold water regime, and this is the reason for their having done well.

There are a few components of the Fraser run, which has more than 100 subcomponents, that are okay. The Summer Chilko run looks to exceed 429,000 females; however, as stocks mingle, and the rest are not doing well, don’t expect fishing opportunities.

Chinook: on Vancouver Island, your best bets to tow your boat are to the hatchery river waters: Conuma, Robertson Creek and Nitinat, meaning fishing West coast Van Isle (WCVI) in the terminal areas of Nootka and Barkley sounds, and the Nitinat Bar, the latter from Port Renfrew or Bamfield. The 2018 run for the Nitinat put 20,000 in the river, and thus suggests that the saltwater terminal fishery would have been good. 

Note that outside waters for the three areas can get good and rough, so fish the rockpiles early in the morning and expect to have left the outside by noon. Later, as fish congregate in inside waters prior to entering their rivers, you can expect terminal fisheries, where authorized. Moutcha Bay at the Conuma provides a good safe place to fish. Even fly fishers with inflatable craft can catch chinook as they rocket around the bay filled with hormones.

Georgia Strait has a number of hatchery systems and fishable numbers from Campbell/Quinsam, Puntledge, Big Q, Little Q and Cowichan. These systems are in the 5,000 to 7,000 fish range so terminal mop up fisheries seem likely. The Cowichan has had a surprising turnaround, and it is mostly the wild chinook that have done well, which is what we want to see. The Puntledge looks to return fall chinook exceeding 10,000 fish (hatchery derived). 

When one considers that adult chinook are in the 20 plus pound range, it only takes one fish to make the day a success. Savvy insiders who beach-fish for chinook, may do as well or better than those in boats. Estuarial river mouths are, after all, choke points, and that factor always improves the chances of catching fish.

Note that the inside rivers also have spring and early summer chinook, in small numbers, and this may affect opening dates for targeting the later fish of higher numbers. Always look at the regs before making plans to take the fish by force.

Coho: WCVI wild coho appear to be in better shape than the rest of the province. Having said this, I would not plan a trip based on terminal coho. As we typically go to fish for chinook and halibut, coho fishing is secondary, though a day with ‘silly’ coho fishing is great fun. Inside hatchery rivers may also provide some terminal coho fun.

Pink: As 2019 is an odd year, the Fraser River pink run will return and put fish in the boat. Average is 13.9M, but the 2017 return, which puts good pink fishing in Juan de Fuca Strait, was only, if my memory is correct, 4.3M, in other words poor, even though most people caught some. Plan to fish in the high percentage days of August.

North-Island estuaries are typically even year dominant for pinks. Hence, they will not provide big numbers this year. Having said this, Amor de Cosmos, Salmon and Campbell/Quinsam will provide fish for on-foot anglers, and some terminal trolling. Anyone like me who does the north island in July/August for beach fishing will find some fish, but also, make sure to have a half dozen back up plans for local rivers. 

Also, remember that the Campbell is much the same as it was in the day of Haig-Brown, so the Upper Island, Island, Sandy Beach and Fence Line runs can provide a nostalgic day of fishing in waters that look pretty much the same as in his era. The reason is that this is a controlled flow river, and logging gravel that has changed so many other rivers doesn’t get a chance to do that here; the river shoots small rocks through, and there is a lake above, where other rivers have logged slopes.

Chum: retention possibilities exist in the Brown’s Bay Chum Madness Johnstone Strait waters, which pass through Fraser chum. While 2017 put less than the expected 800,000 for a terminal escapement figure, with the passing of the Blob in offshore waters, 2019 could put more fish in this max fun fishery. And it is best on bright sunny days in September/October.

Secondarily, the Nitinat hatchery is a major chum producer, and the images I put on onfishingdcreid show a lot of handsome chum in the 10- to 15-pound range from 2018. Retention possibilities exist for both trolling and in-river. Check the regs before going to the trouble of towing your boat out to the Ditidaht campground, over a long, dusty road. 

This post goes with the manuscript A Man And His River: This one has the hatchery take for chum on the lake, along with the in-river chinook: