Roundtable-QCI/Haida Gwaii-June 2008
QCI/HAIDA GWAII ROUND TABLE
SEHAB Rep – George Farrell/Leandre Vigneault
Community Involvement Area – Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii
Community Advisor – Christina Engel
Challenges/Issues and Opportunities/Successes of the Volunteer Aquatic Stewards
1.Management (Fisheries Management)
In an abrogation of its responsibility and mandate DFO has not inspected any of several dozen of streams south of Darwin Sound (and in all areas of the islands) the last several years.Key streams, which were historically inspected by several charter patrolmen, can not be inspected in a timely fashion due to patrolman cutbacks.The reliability of salmon escapement numbers is very low for all of Haida Gwaii (200 streams) outside of the Deena River Coho (thanks to Haida Fisheries) and the Tlell River Coho (thanks to the Tlell Watershed Society).
The North Coast Chinook commercial troll fishery has seen a dramatic reduction in fishing effort and quota.This management action is taken because of concerns over the status of Chinook stocks on the entire Pacific Coast.
Steelhead fishing on island rivers has essentially become a “private club “ affair as we have no hatchery stocks and are no longer allowed to retain any wild fish.The result is that local people are not fishing any more and most of the people on the rivers are guided guests for away.
2.Enforcement (Conservation and Protection)
Four new fisheries officers have been hired in the last year. All are relatively young and new to the job but have been keen to do their jobs and more enforcement presence has been noted.
The long standing DFO Habitat Biologist for the islands is scheduled for retirement in early 2009.He has been a very active and positive representative of DFO in our community and he will be missed.
3.Habitat - Freshwater (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
Good relations between Hecate Strait Streamkeepers, Parks Canada, Haida Fisheries (HFP) and DFO Community Involvement continue.A juvenile assessment team is planning a last visit to the ongoing study area on Lyle Island this summer.However, further funding for both juvenile and adult enumeration and habitat restoration in Gwaii Hanas has not been secured.
The December signing of the Strategic Land Used Agreement negotiated for the islands by the Council of the Haida Nation and the Province has placed 50% of the islands in protected areas and has set out some very stringent guidelines for riparian protection.
A small amount of habitat restoration work has been funded by FIA and administered by logging companies over the past few years. This year in addition to the in stream work, it appears as though money will be put out assess all culverts on older active logging roads for fish passage issues.
4.Habitat - Oceans, Estuaries and Marine (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
In addition to the newly announced Bowie Seamount Marine Protected Area several marine conservation initiatives are on going right now.As part of a DFO funded project for the PNCIMA area the Haida Fisheries program is working on Haida Marine Use plan for all of the waters surrounding the islands and the Gwaii Hanaas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve is at the active planning stage with an interim plan scheduled to be ready for government approval in late 2008 or early 2009.
5.Salmon Enhancement (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
CIP Budget Cuts = less partnerships and reduced service by CA
The Community Involvement Program (CIP) and Advisor (CA) has received yearly and significant budget cuts on Haida Gwaii (15%+).The 30 year volunteer commitment fostered through the CIP in the Pacific Region is being denigrated by short sighted Federal, Regional and Area management decisions.This appeared to be an area management financial strategy in the past few years, specific to Haida Gwaii, however this year it appears similar cuts to SEP/CIP are being experienced in all areas of the Pacific Region.Although the extent of program delivery damage through budget cuts on Haida Gwaii was minimized through attrition (logging camp closures) in previous fiscal years, significant and historic programs have had to been cut.
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.
The coho and chum enhancement program (Northern Trollers Association, Sandspit Enhancement Society & Hecate Strait Streamkeepers) for Skidegate Inlet and east coast Graham Island completed the chum and coho fry releases in mid June after successful incubation and rearing. Their enhancement efforts concentrate on Coho streams which have been rehabilitated (rock berms and gradient control) at the mouth (highway culverts) and chum streams which have been restored (LWD placement and barrier manipulation) after damage from historic logging.
The Tlell Watershed Society continues to count fish and work to promote conservation initiatives through education in the Tlell River watershed.
Salmon Unlimited, Husby Forest Products and the Port Clements Salmon Enhancement Club continue their Coho enhancement programs in Masset Inlet and Naden Harbour.Technical support for the Naden Harbour program becomes increasingly difficult to provide due to the budget cuts mentioned above.
6.Science, Canadian Hydrographic Service (Science and Research)
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 4 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.
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 continues to be their most consistent supporter and funder.The North Coast and QCI Sports Fish Advisory Boards successfully lobbied DFO North Coast Stock Assessment to financially support this vital project for the last 2 years.We hope this is part of a DFO strategy to consistency support data collection for the implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy.Other important funders for this fence have been:QCI Salmon Unlimited, Pacific Salmon Foundation and Gwaii Trust. TWS successfully operated the new video counting system for the last 2 years and plans to build on this success this year.
Peter Dyment is the new education coordinator hired to deliver the islands wide Stream to Sea program.Peter is a biologist and guide with a passion for waterways and fish.Peter and CA Christina Engle will travel to Harrison Hot Springs to participate in the CIP Education Coordinators meeting in August.This yearly meeting provides inspiration and new ideas for the island wide Stream to Sea education program with all Haida Gwaii schools.
7.Consultations: Acts, Regulations, Policy, Program Development and Implementation, Capacity, and Partnerships (Consultations)
Hecate Strait Streamkeepers is continuing its partnership with the Ministry of Highways EEF fund to improve culvert and fish passage problems along Highway 16.This positive involvement of a provincial government Ministry has been very encouraging for volunteers.