Roundtable Report Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board
June 9th and 10th, 2007
Dave Davies - East Coast Vancouver Island (Nanoose to oyster River), West Coast Vancouver Island (Nootka Sound to Kyuquot Sound)
SEHAB Representative: Jack Minard
Four basic issues have dominated the communications I have received over the past few months
1. Problem seals in the Courtenay River
2. General relationship with BCMoE 3. Growth Planning and a perceived lack of inter-jurisdictional cooperation
4. Concerns around changes to the Fisheries Act
1. Groups asking for a lethal cull of problem seals. See attached letter from CVEC
2. Groups dismayed at the lack of follow through with the Province’s claim of valuing community. See attached letter.
3. In our rapidly growing communities there are concerns that a lack of regional planning is occurring. No integration while several initiatives underway Federally and Provincially (i.e. EPMP, RAR, WSP, etc.)
4. Lots of emails and questions about bill C-45
Notes and letters from Groups on the central Island:
Jack-- speaking as co-chair of the Courtenay Fish and Game Protective
Association Sportsfishing Committee, I am requesting that you pass along to any and all DFO reps that attend your meeting, the deep anger and disappointment of our association with the incompetent way the seal problem in the Courtenay River has been handled. Ten years ago, there were the same complaints-- "Get on with it!!!" Finally 50 problem seals were removed and the summer run chinook rebounded. But not this time!! After leading the public down the garden path, South Coast Management has decided that they need to have a PLAN!!! and MORE public meetings!!! Incredible! Distasteful as killing a small number of seals is, the alternative is to sit by and watch the summer runs go the way of the steelhead.... And that is something that our association is not willing to be a party to.
Damn- I can't believe I almost missed mentioning Chris Hilliar’s retirement too!!! I know that you will let the troops know, Jack. In talks in dark corners, I have it on good account that he will be back in the habitat wars after he and Molly get away for a little quality time together.
Thanks. You might not be aware of the depth of our troubles with M.O.E. Nobody has attended our meetings for over a year and a half, letters to the Minister get passed off to subordinates for evasion and outright denial, we get hostile, false and irrational e-mails from Bob Hooton in Nanaimo, and still no action to deal with the problems- to name but a few. I have a letter into the Premier on the subject (again), the local NDP intend to hold an open house on the subject, Shane Simpson (Environment Critic for NDP) is supposed to have been asking questions in the House, and Bill Bennett ( MLA , Liberal, Kelowna ) is asking questions on behalf of the Outdoor Caucus of the Government, and keeping us informed. Anything you can do to exert pressure for change would be useful. I will send you a copy of my letter to Gordon Campbell in case you want more material. Roy Fussell
PUNTLEDGE RIVER RESTORATION COMMITTEE
c/o 1293 Kye Bay Road, Comox, B.C. V9M 3T6
May 11, 2007
Office of the Premier
Box 9041 Stn Prov Govt
Dear Premier Campbell:
I had some correspondence with you at the end of 2004 concerning fish species
in the Puntledge River, namely steelhead, resident rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, for which the Province is responsible, and which are likely going extinct. I also complained that our communications with the Ministry responsible, then W.L.A.P., were very poor. My original letter was 5 Nov. 2004; your excellent reply was 19 Nov., and my following thank you letter was 11 Dec. 2004 in which I reported your Office had created a great improvement in communications.
Unfortunately, I must now report that communications are worse than ever. With the name change to the Ministry of the Environment, the fish seem to be even closer to extinction than ever. It seems names change, but people and organizations do not. I realize that you are very busy, and I will not be at all offended if you pass this matter to an assistant. However, in my view it is important, and is related to extinction of species in British Columbia, with economic consequences. Our mandate is only to the Puntledge, but I am told that much the same is happening on other Vancouver Island rivers, and my personal experience would support that view.
I would like to remind you that the Puntledge River Restoration Committee was set up with representatives of Federal Government, Provincial Government and Local Government, together with B.C. Hydro, local interest groups such as the Fish and Game Protective Association, the Steelhead Society, the Fly Fishers Club, and the Environmental Council which also pays any expenses. Catherine Bell M.P has not yet attended, but says she wants to. Nevertheless we are in close contact, and she has taken a couple of things for us to Ottawa. The Hon. Stan Hagen is President and his Assistant attends regularly. We are a rather respectable group and together have a lot of expertise available. We are nonpartisan,
of course, although it is difficult not to lay blame on the agency that is responsible for our fish and is letting them die out; and moreover actively prevents us from doing anything to help.
For example, we had a program by which we captured cutthroat for breeding purposes. B.C. Hydro provided the traps, the Fish and Game Association provided the labour and the Federal Hatchery looked after raising the fish. It was quite successful. However, the Ministry ordered it closed down on the excuse of incompetence in the Federal Hatchery, an excuse as unbelievable then as now. I am told that similar action has happened on other rivers on the Island, and jealousy is the supposed reason. This year some cutthroat volunteered for breeding by swimming into the Hatchery, but your Ministry ordered them turned out. I doubt if they were successful in breeding in the wild they certainly have not been before.
Letters of protest over the Ministry’s treatment of the Puntledge and its apparent apathy have been sent from the Councils of Cumberland, Comox, and Courtenay, the Environment Council and others, and of course from this Committee, all to no avail. Letters of reply are evasive but appear to be saying that the Ministry of the Environment has no intention of trying to remedy the situation. I give an example later. No representative of the Ministry has attended any of our meetings for over a year and a half now.
Following the failure of the steelhead program, in which the steelhead died (and nobody knows why because there was no study before, during nor after) and the cancellation of the program, your Ministry cancelled the cutthroat program also, which although it was a poorly disorganized thing, was at least something. The resident rainbow have not been helped at all for quite some years now.
By contrast, salmon have been improved greatly by the Federal Government. Fishing for trout has been substantially closed for some fifteen years, but stocks have not improved. They have got much worse, in fact, and now your Ministry has this year opened the River to fishing so there will be mortality.
I will quote my own correspondence. I wrote to Minister the Hon. Barry Penner on 26 Oct. 2006 basically requesting some stocking of at least some resident rainbow before they become extinct. (Normally this is done by capturing a few wild fish and raising their progeny.) Although I reminded a couple of times I got no reply. I did however get a very forceful e-mail on Nov. 16, 2006 from Mr. Bob Hooton, who is head of your Nanaimo office, accusing me of all sorts of things, mostly quite wrong. Most people thought it was very rude and they got very angry. The e-mail was quite public, because Mr. Hooton had sent it to my e-mail list, which is quite long, which means it was sent all over. Your office was sent a copy. I waited a while, consulted the Committee and then wrote a rebuttal, which was quite easy because his message was full of errors. A copy of this also came to your office.
Mr. Hooton then wrote again, getting more and more outlandish, and again the email was widely circulated, including to your office. I doubt that ending it to you was intentional. At this point I thought that the matter was getting very silly, so did not reply in public. However I wrote some notes in reply and lodged them with Hon. Stan Hagen’s office, for the record. You could get a. copy if you wanted of course. It is significant that all these e-mails also went, possibly again by error on Mr. Hooton’s part, to the Minister of the Environment. I would regard his actions as very unprofessional, yet neither the Hon. Barry Penner nor Nancy Wilkin have ever alluded to them, and certainly have never apologized.
In the end, a reply to my letter to the Minister came from Nancy Wilkin, Assistant Deputy Minister, dated Jan 1, 2007. However, by the time it got here, I was out of the country. When I got back it was presented to the Puntledge River Committee who were quite angry and requested me to write a very strong letter to the Minister. After consideration and consultation, I see no point repeating writing to the Minister. Many of us have done that already, thus this letter.
The letter to me was supposedly from Nancy Wilkin, but most of it appears, by style and content, to have been written by Mr. Hooton. (He has told us before that all letters to the Minister come to him.) It starts by repeating back to me some of my statements about the Freshwater Fishing Society, but claiming they are their own and they are correcting us and telling us something we did not know. The next paragraph pursues some red herrings, including brown trout. Towards the end we have “I am also advised that resident rainbow stocking into coastal streams already home to the native cutthroat, steelhead, and a broad spectrum of salmon is not considered a good use of hatchery fish.”
Federal Government says that trout are no threat to salmon, so otherwise the statement seems to say the Ministry will not stock in order to protect the cutthroat and steelhead, and presumably will not stock with cutthroat to protect rainbow and steelhead, and will not stock with steelhead to protect the rainbows and cutthroat. The Ministry had already cancelled the cutthroat and steelhead programs. That was why I was writing. So the Ministry will do nothing. I note however, there was no attempt to counter my claims of impending extinction. I have been raising this for three years now, for example in my letter to you in 2004, and nobody has challenged me.
The rest of the letter repeats something about the agenda, which is another excuse for non-attendance and which I have already dealt with a number of times, and the Ministry has since shifted to other excuses. There is no mention of e-mails, nor of endangered species, nor of any plans to remediate. Ms. Wilkin then closes with” ... participation at meetings ... have been addressed previously and discussed at the PRRC meeting I attended March 25 2006.” Mr. Hooton also claims to have attended a meeting of the PRRC at around the same time and delivered a stern lecture to us. There have been no such meetings. Neither have ever met with the Puntledge River Restoration Committee and of course no message has ever been delivered.
There seems to be a lot of confusion in the Ministry. And dysfunction.
Thank you for your attempt at improving communications in 2004. In fact a representative did attend meetings for a while. Unfortunately, he was very patronizing, lectured us at great length, frequently asked us for money and was quite disruptive to our meetings, and sometimes rude we thought. Members got angry and eventually we had to ask that the Ministry send someone else and the Ministry withdrew him but sent nobody else. We suppose we were the object of tactics. Nobody has attended for well over a year and a half now. There were other communication problems. A letter I wrote opposing a cutthroat funding proposal as being a waste of taxpayers’ money was included, I was told in that funding proposal as showing that the PRRC was in full support. Surely this was misrepresentation. My writing was quite forceful and not unclear.
Another time I found out the PRRC was being stated officially as being responsible for and in charge of a cutthroat program when we most certainly were not. Thus I cannot see any point in trying to repair co-operative relations again, except possibly with outside help, and it is my opinion that it is probably better that M.O.E. remain absent rather than have further disruption and negativity.
I think the only way out of this, and to save the fish, is if you would call in an impartial expert, or more than one, in order to investigate and make recommendations, with some assurance that the recommendations would be followed. I have something like the Cheakamus situation in mind. And I request this investigation please.
I would of course be quite happy to discuss this matter with anyone.
Roy Fussell, Chair,
Puntledge River Restoration Committee.
pc: Hon. Stan Hagen.
Dear Mr. Beggs,
Problem seals in the Courtenay and Puntledge Rivers are not responding in the
manner hoped for with the use of the electric fence deterrent that has been deployed on several occasions his spring. These seals have been observed actually waiting for the deterrent to be shut off and are moving quickly into the backlit areas of the 17th and 5th street Bridges and have been observed as far upstream as the Condensory Bridge as soon as the deterrent has been removed. The deterrent would have to be in place 100% of the time that fry are outmigrating for it to work and yet these habituated predators would still decimate outmigrating fry by remaining just downstream of the deterrent.
The Comox Valley Environmental Council (CVEC) commends the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for its concerted attempts to reduce the impacts of seal predation without resorting to lethal means and that any approach towards solving this problem that incorporates a number of means to reduce the number of fatalities both of fish and seal would be preferred by the Council.
Capture and relocation has not worked in the past however, and lethal removal, while controversial with our community, may be the only short-term solution to a growing problem. Some 30+ seals were observed again just last night (May 17, 2007) in these areas.
The community would likely accept lethal removal of these problem seals if it was only the tip of a long-term and holistic management plan to protect production and wild fry from the Puntledge River and the struggling but slowly improving Tsolum River outmigration. Human effort and tax dollars are producing the fish required to populate these rivers but this money and effort is largely being lost to an abundance of harbour seals known to consume literally millions of these outmigrating smolts. Fragile coho and chinook stocks simply cannot survive this concentrated predation.
A longer-term management plan would have to include a holistic and ecological approach. A primary food source for seals, for example, is hake. DFO has authorized a significant fishery on this species and reductions of this species “forces” seals to look elsewhere for their sustenance. Current herring fisheries continue to decimate herring stocks that have affected orca whale stocks that have in turn allowed seal populations to rise with reduced predation of seal pups by this species. Managing seals alone cannot accomplish management of seal predation; the entire food chain must be managed to the best of our current understanding and ability.
Kelp planting in the estuary, complexing to offer refuge, the enhancement of stocks, restoration of lost and damaged habitats and protection from human incursion into salmonid habitats would begin to round out a holistic approach.
The CVEC recommends that, instead of concentrating only on the short-term removal of problem seals in the Courtenay and Puntledge Rivers, such a holistic approach be developed with expertise available and a commitment of effort and dollars to such a program. We further recommend the development of, or a redefining of an existing, protection, restoration and enhancement committee be undertaken to address both the short-term lethal removal of the existing problem seals in conjunction with a longer term ecological approach.
In the meantime and under the circumstances mentioned above, the CVEC supports the lethal removal of these problem seals and would encourage immediate implementation. Seal pups will be born soon and waiting to implement a cull will mean orphaned pups. If we are to implement lethal measures, let’s not add the suffering of these animals’ offspring.
CVEC FANNY BAY SALMONID ENHANCEMENT SOCIETY (FBSES)
The Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on May 10th at the Rosewall Hatchery. We all enjoyed the guest speaker Darcy Miller, the new manager of Big Qualicum, Little Qualicum and Rosewall Hatcheries (Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO). Dave Davies our community advisor for DFO was also on hand to add words of support to our group. Elections were held, and the keen new Board of directors is as follows:
President – Judy Ackinclose
Vice President – Jim Burgess
Secretary – Terri Matheson
Treasurer – Dave Sands
Directors – Jessy Burgess, Pam Lengyel, Nelson Eddy, Doug Mole, Finn Keim,
Bill Jackson and John Bradbury.
At the AGM, directors gave a brief overview of the past year’s work. Pam
presented the survival rates of egg to fry which was 97% for chum and 93% for coho. It must be that good Rosewall water!
We are all looking forward to a busy year and there are a variety of plans for the summer in addition to the very important fry salvage work. There are major restoration projects for Chef Creek (Salmonberry Ponds), Cook Creek (mainstem and Relic side channel), Mud Bay Creek, Bob Springs Creek. By the end of these projects, hopefully it will be time for our pink salmon return and then we will be into broodstock time. Presently, we are doing our regular smolt count at Waterloo Creek. This important data is sent to DFO and in turn they allot us some funding.
We have also received confirmation from Pacific Salmon Foundation that we were successful in our grant proposals for a number of our projects. The funding is close to $27,000 and we have also received another $2,000 from the Mid Island Castaways Fly Fishing group in Qualicum Beach for the Bob Springs Creek Project.
These are exciting times for us as we will see several of our habitat enhancement projects completed this summer. We need to have more people involved so if you can help at anytime it would be terrific and we know you would enjoy the experience. There are many different areas within our group that may be of interest to you from fish salvage, to tree planting, to broodstock take, to hatchery maintenance … something for everyone! The work days are Wednesday and Saturday 9 to 12 at the Rosewall Hatchery on Berray Rd, we look forward to seeing you there!!! Keep buying those Duckie Tickets and support your local salmon enhancement group!!
For information, please call Judy Ackinclose at 335-0010 or Dave Sands at 7579807.
By Judy Ackinclose