Roundtable-QCI/Haida Gwaii-May 2010
SEHAB Rep –Leandre Vigneault/George Farrell
Community Involvement Area – Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii
Community Advisor – Pat Fairweather
Challenges/Issues and Opportunities/Successes of the Volunteer Aquatic Stewards
1.Management (Fisheries Management)
It appears commercial salmon fisheries management will be limited to a chinook and coho troll fishery in the summer and a very few opportunistic terminal net fisheries on small identified chum and pink surpluses.The already devastated charter patrol program has received a further 10% cut.Over 100 streams are not being inspected.Key streams are either not being inspected with sufficient regularity to provide reliable escapement numbers (often the case for chum and pinks) or worse are not being inspected annually ( the case for many chum and pinks streams and almost all coho runs) due to patrolman cutbacks and Coast Guard priorities.
The reliability of salmon escapement numbers is very low for all of Haida Gwaii (200 streams) outside of Pallant Creek chum, pink and coho (which may be in jeopardy as hatchery funding may be cancelled) and Deena River coho (thanks to Haida Fisheries) and Tlell River coho (thanks to the Tlell Watershed Society).
Guided sports fishing continues to expand at a very rapid rate and sports fishing catch often equals or exceeds the commercial catch for Chinook and Coho.Some local concern about sustainability of this fishery particularly when it comes to ground fish stocks and late season fisheries that impact local stock of coho which are quite small.
2.Enforcement (Conservation and Protection)
Haida Gwaii now has 6 fisheries officers all of whom have been hired in the last 3 to 4 years and more enforcement presence out in the field has been noted.
3.Habitat - Freshwater (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
Good relations between Hecate Strait Streamkeepers, Parks Canada, Haida Fisheries (HFP) and DFO Community Involvement continue.Parks Canada has received a substantial amount of funding for both juvenile and adult enumeration, habitat restoration, and coho enhancement in Gwaii Haanas over the next 4 years.
4.Habitat - Oceans, Estuaries and Marine (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
Several marine conservation initiatives have been initiated.The Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve has been established has established an interim management plan.In addition to the planning going on for Gwaii Haanas, the Haida Fisheries Program is working on marine use planning for all of the waters surrounding Haida Gwaii and a large marine planning initiative for the whole north coast (PNCIMA) is moving forward slowly.
Several large development initiatives in the north are of concern to Haida Gwaii residents as they have the potential to negatively impact the marine ecosystem around the Islands.They include, the large offshore wind farm project propose for Hecate Strait, the increased container ship traffic heading to Prince Rupert, the Enbridge pipeline and proposed tanker terminal in Kitimat and the potential of oil and gas development in Hecate Strait.All of these projects have the potential to change the sensitive marine ecosystem around the islands and many people are concerned that the benefits do not out weight the risks particularly when there does not seem to be a plan to deal with problems quickly and effectively when they occur.
5.Salmon Enhancement (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
Incubation at the CIP and CEDP enhancement projects enjoyed a successful year. Groups currently rearing and releasing pink, chum, and coho include the Northern Trollers Association, Queen Charlotte Enhancement Group, QCI Salmon Unlimited Society, the Sandspit Hatchery Society, Husby Forest Products, and the Port Clements Salmon Enhancement Club.
The future of Pallant Creek Hatchery is currently very much in question.The hatchery has lost a year worth of chum production and are only rearing a ¼ of their normal coho fry.
The CEDP hatchery on the Yakoun River continues to operate but struggles with a very limited budget getting by in large part because of a committed staff that is willing to accept reduced wages to keep the project going.
6.Science, Canadian Hydrographic Service (Science and Research)
Unfortunately salmon stock assessment is not seen as a priority and is largely determined by fisheries management, although on paper the Science Branch has regional responsibility for stock assessment.SEHAB has recommended a separate Branch or Division tasked with salmon stock assessment.
As discussed in the fisheries management section above, for the most part stock assessment on Haida Gwaii continues to be off the DFO radar.The consistent and accurate collection of data concerning the timing and migration of local stocks is the basis of any salmon management plan or “science based” plan including the WSP. The collection of this data in the Pacific Region has been reduced to a dangerously low, almost non existent, level by DFO over the last 20 years.Locally, DFO has made a good choice by supporting one coho fence count on the Tlell River.However, over the last 5 years fence counts, AUC counts, and the patrolman counts have been reduced to an unacceptable level.Please read Patrolman Pettigrew’s letter to the Minister and replies on the web site sehab.org.In order to refocus the priorities of the charter patrol program they should be moved from fisheries management to stock assessment.
As well, a regionally coordinated Division should be recreated to oversee a coast wide operational framework for salmon stock assessment.Additional monies should be budgeted by Ottawa to support data collection (on the water, real time, real people) to support a science based monitoring of successes and failures in the creation of Conservation Units and Habitat Status Assessment Monitoring.The Wild Salmon Policy’s success depends on adequate monitoring, which at this time is missing.
7.Stewardship & Community Involvement (Stewardship & Community)
The Tlell Watershed Society (TWS) has forged successful partnerships to continue operating the only adult counting fence on Haida Gwaii.The CIP has provided consistent support and funding. For the past 5 years, DFO North Coast Stock Assessment and the QCI Salmon Unlimited Society have provided the bulk of the inseason operating funds.We hope this is part of a DFO strategy to consistently support data collection for the implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy.TWS has successfully operated the new video counting system for the last 5 years.
Many believe it is imperative that DFO return the CIP to its own Regional Division which could avoid area managers making financial decisions that have a negative impact by area.Area Habitat Directors are not physically or logistically able to be fully committed to the advancement of the Community Involvement Program.For DFO to truly show support to the volunteer stewardship community CIP should be returned to its rightful position as a priority.We should all be demanding a Pacific Region Community Involvement Division supported by a Regional staff outside the area management model.
At the very least, dedicated planning teams (biologist and engineer) as occurred in the past for each Community Advisor’s area is a number 1 priority.A region wide standard of planning should be established for all areas.
7.Consultations: Acts, Regulations, Policy, Program Development and Implementation, Capacity, and Partnerships (Consultations)
8.Treaty & Aboriginal Programs (Treaty & Aboriginal Programs)
The Haida Fisheries Program continues to conduct an extensive and very successful fisheries program: Providing valuable data about escapement on several selected salmon stocks, managing several FSC fisheries as well as a commercial shellfish fishery, conducting creel surveys and running a major production hatchery. The program is also very engaged in marine planning for the Islands.
The Council of the Haida Nation has signed significant agreements with the ProvincialGovernment which provides for joint management of resources on Haida Gwaii.Residents of Haida Gwaii look forward to a measured and sustainable future for their home.