Issues

2020 Chinook

July 6 – An SFI release regarding Chinook and Fisheries on the BC Coast in 2020

For immediate release

2020 SUMMER BC SPORT FISHING SEASON OFF TO AN UNUSUAL BUT EXCELLENT START

Vancouver, BC – Barely into the summer fishing season and it is becoming clear that 2020 will be a productive and active one despite the slow start and impacts to travel restrictions from the Covid pandemic. Now that BC’s Restart Phase 3 has been implemented and British Columbians can move around the Province more freely there is opportunity to enjoy a fishing experience in virtually every corner of BC. Fishing reports from the northern coast to Victoria show excellent fishing can be expected this summer.

While it is clear that there are significant concerns regarding specific Chinook stocks on the Fraser River that require restrictions and specific strategies for avoidance of those salmon, there are many other healthy and more abundant stocks and species that can be harvested by anglers this season. It is important to note that there are many more Chinook producing rivers in BC than those found on the Fraser River, and many of those are enjoying high to record returns. And, of course, there is much more to the story than Chinook. Coho, Pink, Sockeye and Chum salmon all provide great opportunity on our coast and river systems along with countless opportunities to harvest cod, halibut, and shellfish.

Anglers in BC account for approximately 25% of salmon harvested and 15% of halibut, yet contribute 39% of revenues from all fisheries, including aquaculture, to BC’s economy.  The related tourism and local travel activity in this Province is significant, and contributes $1.1 billion in revenues. The impacts that all have faced in times of Covid have been have been especially challenging for fishing tourism businesses, small coastal communities and the loss of many of the 9000 direct jobs that would ordinarily welcome guests that come to enjoy the unrivalled fishing experiences of which our Province is justifiably famous.

The previous details are noted to provide a broader view and perspective of fish and fisheries on the BC coast than was included in DFO’s June 19th DFO announcements regarding Chinook stocks of concern on the Fraser River. It is understood that DFO must address the underlying issues faced by Fraser River Chinook stocks of concern if there is to be any hope of long-term recovery. But, when DFO announced long awaited fishery management measures to address the concerns and low numbers it was hoped that details would also include a comprehensive, ecosystem-based approach to recovery. This was not delivered, and instead the announcements were limited to severe fishery restrictions around Vancouver, failing to implement sustainable,  low or no risk options that would have allowed Chinook retention, and only a description of the challenges faced by the stocks of concern. This has left the impression that Chinook are in trouble everywhere on our coast, and that fishing for them is closed. This is just not true.

Fishery management alone has historically proven ineffective as a recovery tool. It is acknowledged by fishery managers and biologists that the implementation of fishing restrictions alone will not recover the stocks of concern. Fishing pressure and harvest is not the driving force behind the decline in abundance, rather it is the productive capacity of both freshwater and marine environments.  A comprehensive recovery program that also addresses habitat, in-river environmental issues, enhancement work, illegal fishing practices and known impacts of predators is required. In fact, all sectors with an interest in salmon agree that there are serious and urgent problems for Fraser River stocks of concern that must be addressed, that fisheries management alone is not a solution but a band-aid on a bullet hole, and must be combined with solutions that address the root cause of the problem.

Utilization of existing hatchery production should be an important component of a recovery plan for Fraser River Chinook, and to provide an important and reliable harvest opportunity for all sectors.  Currently, BC produces about 40 million hatchery Chinook annually, of which only 10% are marked, or fin clipped so they can easily be identified and separated from the unmarked stocks of concern.  In Washington State, 100% of hatchery fish are marked. The effect of 100% marking makes it absolutely clear which are wild fish and which are bred for harvest.  BC moving to 100%-mark rates will allow all harvest groups to protect and avoid wild fish,  and mass marking also serves a similar purpose on or near the spawning grounds to aid in maintenance of genetic integrity of wild stocks.  Meanwhile, in areas where hatchery fish are known to be prevalent, harvest can occur in mark selective fisheries (MSF).  These MSF fisheries take place annually in Washington State and have been an important and successful part of BC’s public Coho fishery for nearly 20 years. If we accept that fishing and fisheries are an important part of our culture, traditions, food security and coastal economy, then we need look no further than our southern and northern US neighbors to identify and implement a strategy that works in achieving a balance between conservation and socioeconomic goals.

While anglers have a tendency to tell fishing stories, those coming in so far this season happen to be true. We are seeing Chinook and Coho fishing in areas like Campbell River, Sooke, Port Hardy, the North Coast and on the West coast of Vancouver Island similar to what was seen last year. And, last year was remembered as one of the most productive in many years. Following the difficult and reduced opportunity due to the Covid lockdown, we are pleased to see that guides are now being booked, tackle sales are brisk, and the fishing is excellent

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June 30 – Additional Chinook Opportunities Announced

While the June 19th announcement provided some details regarding Chinook opportunities, clarification a DFO Fishery Notice was released today.

The following maps provide details of additional opportunity details provided through adoption of some of the SFAB proposals.

Beecher Bay and Mainland Inlets

May 14 – An SFI Chinook Proposal Brief 

A brief regarding the SFAB proposals and in support of a balanced decision for 2020 Chinook Fishery Management

SFI Chinook Brief – May 2020

April 9th – SFAB Response Proposal regarding 2020 fisheries plans addressing Fraser River Chinook stocks of concern.

On March 2nd, DFO provided a 2020 Chinook Management Approach Letter detailing an approach to developing a 2020 fishery management plan for Fraser River stocks of concern. On April 9th, the SFAB, the body responsible for proposing fishery management plans on behalf of the public fishery, submitted this proposal and response to that letter. In addition, here is a supporting document recently developed to provide perspectives on mass marking (MM) and mark selective fishing (MSF)

There is no doubt that the future of the South Coast public Chinook fishery in BC will be dependent on the DFO response to the proposals put forward today by the SFAB. Recovery of Chinook stocks of concern is not a short-term proposition. Without broader application of Mark Selective Fisheries (MSF) and the acceptance of additional data supported fisheries, the future for the public fishery is in peril. The public fishery needs stability and certainty. Without either one, anglers and businesses will continue to suffer.

SEND A LETTER – MAKE THE POINT
The public fishery needs your help to send a loud and clear message to DFO and the Minister. Please read over the proposals and send in a letter or email to Minister Jordan and the DFO Pacific Salmon Team (e-mail addresses linked here and listed below) to express your support. It is important that letters are written in your own words, even a paragraph is good.  Outline your experience with non-retention, the importance of opportunity and access to sustainable fisheries, and provide your support for the proposals put forward by the SFAB. Note: the SFI is CC’d in the above e-mail links.  We will collect all responses.

Make no mistake, the threats to Fraser River Chinook are real, and the implementation of broader recovery plans that include hatchery augmentation, habitat preservation and rehabilitation, and predator control are required.  The proposals put forward by the SFAB achieve the critically important balance between protecting stocks of concern and sustaining a public fishery. The SFI will play a key role in developing comprehensive recovery plans for these stocks.  In the meantime, responsible, sustainable fisheries are required in order to maintain a public Chinook fishery.

As the Prime Minister stated in his mandate letter to Minister Bernadette Jordan: “As Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, you will lead the Government’s work to protect and promote our three oceans and our waterways, sustain and rebuild the fisheries, and ensure that they remain healthy for future generations, while providing important economic opportunities to Canadians and coastal communities.”

As participants in the most socially and economically significant fishery in BC, let’s work together to remind DFO that fisheries are important to British Columbians.

SFI letter of support to Minister Jordan

e-mail addresses:

Minister Jordan: min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

DFO’s Pacific Salmon Team: DFO.PacificSalmonRMT-EGRSaumonduPacifique.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

SFI: info@sportfishing.bc.ca

April 9th: FINAL SFAB 2020- 2021 Fraser River Stream-type Stocks of Concern IFMP Proposal

2020 SFAB Perspective on Mark Selective Fisheries and Mass Marking

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