November 2017 SEHAB meeting
Cindy Verbeek, Smithers and Area Rep
CA: Natalie Newman
Society Activities and Concerns
The Society continues to be active in assisting with school programs in the area and operation of the Mission Creek Coho Trap and Transport Program (under contract with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure). For the third year in a row, we have suffered extreme high water events which damaged the fence structure required to operate the trap and transport program. This year, an event on October 24th damaged the fence so significantly that it had to be removed prematurely and may have to be completely rebuilt before the program resumed. Although we were able to meet our trap and transport targets, removal of the fence and trap when an estimated 200 coho were entering the system means that data on returns is incomplete and future operations are in jeopardy.
Actions Needed from DFO
Given that high water events are becoming a ‘norm’ rather than isolated or intermittent events, it is suggested that what we may be experiencing is a frontline impact of climate change affecting salmonids in our watershed. Ongoing scientific collection and analysis of data by DFO would appear to be in order as part of an assessment of the impact of climate change on salmonids. This could include (but not be limited to) the following:
- long-term changes in precipitation patterns (either increased or decreased) and their impact on stream flows in Pacific Region;
- known or observed impact of stream flow changes on salmonid spawning success, in-stream survival, and migration to the ocean;
- known, observed, or projected impact of precipitation or stream flow changes on salmonid habitat in Pacific Region;
- collection of ocean temperature, currents, and other data and collation of these with salmon population estimates used for establishing harvest limits and practices.
Volunteer groups throughout Pacific Region could play a role in assisting DFO with much of this data collection and monitoring, but the primary responsibility for the scientific analysis and any conclusions drawn must remain with DFO. Without such data collection and analysis, successful implementation of a Wild Salmon Policy would appear to be problematic.
Wild Salmon Policy
Following are some observations from Society members relating to this:
- The WSP contains a lack of recovery actions for depressed (red-zonned) salmon.
- Federal government needs to put forth dedicated funding for engagement in creating the implementation plan.
- Federal government needs to put for dedicated funding for implementation activities -- assure that the annual funding level here directly reflects the costs of annual + continual implementation activities.
- Critical for DFO to assign a senior manager responsible for implementation of the WSP; ideally management + monitoring of the implementation process is not exclusively held within DFO...could it be done in partnership? with who/what groups? or accountability extends beyond DFO.
- Specific recommendations: DFO to appoint a senior manger accountable for WSP Implementation whose sole responsibility is to oversee the execution of the WSP Implementation Plan. The Regional Director General still maintains authority for implementation. Additionally, DFO should assign support staff within its administrative regions who are responsible and accountable for engaging partners in region-specific implementation activities.
- Any implementation plan must respect the legal obligations regarding First Nations priority rights + interests in fisheries management (Free Prior and Informed Consent process + accountable to UNDRIP).
- First Nations driven socio-economic assessments must inform the implementation plan. These assessments must reflect the values of FN salmon fisheries (FSC, commercial, treaty, etc.), often not accurately reflected in the socio-economic analyses that DFO uses in their decision-making processes.
- The WSP Implementation plan must clearly state how First Nations driven socio-economic assessments and factors will be used in decision making.
- The WSP calls for the incorporation of "Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge" into conservation management practice; An awareness of the tension that exists between the need to incorporate indigenous knowledge systems + the nature of indigenous knowledge being proprietary to a degree and cannot always be shared, is essential. This awakens must be recognized and accommodated throughout.
Beaver Dam Management
This matter has been a topic of discussion at annual watershed roundtable meetings sponsored by our society. I believe our group would be very supportive of clear and enforceable guidelines for management of dams, as well as guidelines for ensuring safe fish passage in affected streams. At present there seems to be little in the way of firm direction from the highest level of DFO relating to these matters. As a Society working with salmon in the watershed, we have been left to plead with other groups in our area (often unsuccessfully) to exercise self-restraint. In our view, this is an abdication of DFO’s responsibility to exercise its mandate.
Sorry for the late response to your request. Much of the above input was just received at noon today.
While I received the pdf files on the project, I find them unnecessarily lengthy. I am submitting my comments in this format and hope they will be included in any decisions that are made.
- It is difficult to take the document seriously when the DFO is being underfunded and under supported. The number of officers in the field is being reduced every year. As an example, we no longer have an active officer on the entire Skeena system. When I raised this issue at a recent Wild Salmon Policy meeting I was given the response “well, I guess we have to rely on the anglers on the river to report violations”. Specious responses are not acceptable.
- The Federal government has been closing hatcheries on the Skeena system, and instead of increasing funding for the only hatchery on the system (The Toboggan Creek Salmon and Steelhead Hatchery Society) the funding saved from those closed hatcheries disappears into a black hole. That hatchery used to monitor and enhance Spring salmon stocks on a number of rivers, but due to lack of funding is no longer able to enhance Steelhead or Spring salmon stocks in many areas. It is now the only stock assessment and data gathering unit on the Skeena system.
- There is a complete lack of enforcement action with regard to the Kinder Morgan actions, i.e. the laying of screens in spawning beds, construction in and near rivers prior to the approval of the project, and this increases the level of cynicism regarding any promises for the future.
- Cynicism is increased when one reads of the introduction of diseased Atlantic salmon in the open net farms along the B.C. coast. Where the hell are the biologists and scientists when private citizens bring forth ample evidence of the damage being done by these foreign corporations? Beyond the immediate problem of the diseases, the explosion in the sea louse population near the farms and the pollution of the ocean floor from the vast amounts of fecal material now spreading beyond the floor of the pens should be reason enough for action from a body which is supposed to be protecting our environment and wild salmon stocks. Secondary to this is the deliberate attraction of herring and other stocks into the farms by the placement of heavy duty lights over and around the netted areas. As a sports angler I’m not allowed to do this, nor, technically, are commercial fishers, but there’s no attempt at enforcement at these “farms”.
- The federal government allows far larger allocations of salmon for salt water sports anglers than presently exist in the river systems. There has been no attempt to stem the explosion of “sport fishing lodges” and their massive impact on Spring salmon stocks. Even the individual salt water angler has a larger daily and season limit than anglers on the river systems. An alarming decrease in Spring salmon stocks on the Skeena system is being met with equally alarming apathy. The Skeena and it’s tributaries are still relatively healthy as far as supplying spawning areas, so the problem is in the ocean environment.
- Finally, I must express my appreciation for the local, hard working staff at our DFO office. They are under staffed, under supported and under funded, and I do worry how much longer those dedicated people may have jobs, or decide to find a less frustrating, more lucrative line of work.
Smithers, B.C. V0J 2N0
The beaver population seems to be exploding. They prevent a lot of salmon from getting to spawning areas in the small streams. What is the groups take on this. I could argue both sides????? Martin Knutson