February 2008

North Island / Mainline Round Table Report

Groups in the area continue to devote time and energy to protecting and enhancing fish and fish habitat.

Our education coordinator, Jackie Hildering, is busy with classrooms around the area providing a large selection of aquatic education programs that are truly “Stream to Sea”.  There are programs for kindergarten to high school teaching students about the aquatic environment and how we as people can protect and lesson our footprint.

The high incidence of storms in November resulted in some hatcheries not being able to collect their brood.  The Cordy Hatchery reported seeing high numbers of fish in the river, but they were unsuccessful in getting any to the hatchery due to high water.  The Mainland Enhancement group also had difficulty getting into the rivers to collect brook, but of greater concern is the lack of escapement in their rivers.  The Northern Vancouver Island Enhancement group reports an exceptional pink return to the Cluxewe River.  They have successfully been building up the “off” pink year run.

The Town of Port McNeill is working with the local volunteer community to protect and enhance fish habitat within the community as part of a plan to upgrade the downtown core.

Of grave concern to all the volunteers in the area is the apparent disregard for our region that DFO appears to have.  We are an area rich in resources, including aquatic resources.  It is an active area for resource extraction and usage.  Currently there is timber harvesting, aquaculture, mining, hydro generation, water bottling and tourism.  There are significant interests in Wind and Run of the River electrical generation projects and as with the rest of the coast, communities are growing.  DFO seems to view the North Island/Mainland as expendable.  Often times we have too few officers as they have been sent to “more important areas of the province”.  We have had a series of Habitat Biologists/Technologists in the past 5 years and often they do not even live on the North Island.  It is very difficult to work with your constituents when you live and maintain an office hours away.  We have not had a permanent Community Advisor since winter of 2007.  Despite constituents writing letters to the department, there has been no response or dialogue regarding these positions.  The erosion of support staff is alienating one of DFO’s best allies, the volunteers.

The North Island volunteers are please that Sheila Fraser, Auditor General, has been commissioned to investigate whether DFO has fulfilled their mandate to protect fish and fish habitat and will be providing input.

February 2006

SEHAB Rep:  Lynne Broekhuizen
Environmental Protection Modernization Plan
The north island region does not have the development problems that are seen within the urban area and generally there is a good relationship between land base users and the government agencies.

The concern that we have is this process could undermine the good working relationship by reducing the ability of DFO habitat technologists to work with land base users.  Currently we take a team approach and look for the win/win situation.

If moving to a matrix means reducing the number of habitat technologists in areas, it is the wrong move.  Many sites do not fit the cookie cutter type matrix and there needs to be communication between the developer and DFO prior to site development.  DFO needs to be part of the team and the habitat technologist can provide that role.  Auditing is a good idea, but it is still better to prevent than fix.

Volunteer Recruitment 
A dilemma with many of our regions, the volunteers are aging and we do not seem to be getting new recruits.  This really needs to be addressed.

How can we recruit volunteers in today’s busy society?

Education has become a focus on the north island. This will not only increase the fresh water and marine environmental awareness, but will encourage young people to become involved as volunteers or possibly direct them in their career choices.

Coho Returns
Coho returns appear to be generally good in our region.  Fish were reported to be late, with one hatchery reporting capturing coho on Christmas Day (that is dedication!).  The Nimpkish River group captured Chinook for brood stock past Christmas.  Most of the hatcheries managed to get their brood stock although high fall water levels hampered some of the facilities.   The high, dark coloured water restricted escapement counts.  We can only assume they were good based on the brood captures when the water allowed access.

Stock Assessment
We will never be able to credibly give a report on the state of the fish stocks without stock assessments.  There is no credibility to reports unless there is sound technical data to support.

We desperately need more stock assessment to understand the state of the resource.

Communication with Fisheries and Oceans and the public and even between their departments is extremely poor.

There are too many people in acting positions within the department.  Employees are frequently put in positions temporarily or are moved.  The lack of permanency in positions has hampered the DFO workers and the community in their ability to form relationships and to protect the resource.

Enforcement staff are often difficult to contact and volunteers get frustrated with the “telephone tag” that often results when trying to report potential fish habitat degradation issues.

The gap between Enforcement, other DFO departments and the volunteer community groups and the general public needs to be closed and this can only be done with communication.