Roundtable-QCI/Haida Gwaii-Feb 2009
QCI/HAIDA GWAII ROUND TABLE
SEHAB Rep –Leandre Vigneault/George Farrell
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)
Despite generally low levels of abundance of chum and pink stocks around the islands DFO is still committed to fishing any identified surpluses and has accepted the annual cuts to the charter patrol program as they have not significantly affected the department’s ability to do that.As has been the practise the past 5 years the current bid process for the next three years of charter patrol does not allow for patrolmen to inspected streams south of Juan Perez Sound on the east coast, south of Tasu Sound on the west coast or north of Skidegate Inlet and Channel.In the absence of charter patrolmen, the Coast Guard/DFO vessel Arrow Post has been tasked with inspecting some streams.However key streams, which were historically inspected by several charter patrolmen, are not being inspected in a timely fashion 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 Deena River coho (thanks to Haida Fisheries) and Tlell River coho (thanks to the Tlell Watershed Society).This lack of platforms and human resources is evident on the entire coast of British Columbia and has recently been documented on the central and north coast in a paper published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
The local office has recently hired a person to mentor with the current fisheries manager the department is to be commended on their proactive succession planning.
2.Enforcement (Conservation and Protection)
Four new replacement fisheries officers have been hired in the last year and a half and more enforcement presence 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 is pursuing further funding for both juvenile and adult enumeration, habitat restoration, and coho enhancement in Gwaii Haanas.
The signing of the Strategic Land Used has placed 50% of the islands’ land area and 73% of the shoreline in protected areas and has set out some very stringent guidelines for riparian protection for forest activities.This a higher level plan so some of the ground implementation details still need to be worked out but is a huge step in the right direction and the is supposed to be fully implemented by December 2009.
Logging of riparian areas on private lands is still an issue.The area currently being logged is also in the community watershed for the town of Queen Charlotte and a local committee has been working to improve practices.The current downturn in the economy has resulted in much less logging on the islands as a whole.Currently the only significant logging employer on Graham Island is on private land making this a complex issue.
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.The Haida Fisheries Program is working on marine use planning for all of the waters surrounding Haida Gwaii and the proposed Gwaii Haanas National Marine Conservation Area Reserve is in intensive planning stages with an interim management plan scheduled to be ready for government approval in late 2008 or early 2009.To engage and inform Haida Gwaii residents in marine issues, Haida Fisheries, Gwaii Haanas, World Wildlife Fund Canada and DFO Oceans are worked together to host ‘An Ocean Forum for Haida Gwaii’ on January 23 & 24, 2009. This event was a huge success with lots of local and off-island attendance and has generated lots of ideas and discussion.A MOU on collaborative governance was signed in December 2008 between the federal government and coastal first nations; a public PNCIMA Forum is being held in Richmond on March 26th and 27th to bring together interested parties to initiate dialogue on the development of an integrated management plan for the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA).
5.Salmon Enhancement (Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement)
Broodstock was a success and incubation is currently underway for all of small volunteer enhancement projects although cool water temperatures are slowing down egg development.
The coho and chum enhancement program (NTA & HSS) for Skidegate Inlet and east coast Graham Island have not yet completed the chum and coho broodstock collection. (Very low pink salmon returns led to limited pink eggs being incubated for Jungle Creek). 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.
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 DFO budget cuts.
Pallant Creek hatchery was successful in achieving approximately ½ of its chum egg take targets which is considerably better than was expected when the pre-season escapement predictions were made.Coho numbers where less than hoped for but respectable in light of the low return numbers.
Our current CA Christina Engle has recently accepted a job transfer so it looks like the position may open early in April.Hopefully DFO moves quickly to fill this vital position.
6.Science, Canadian Hydrographic Service (Science and Research)
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 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.In order to refocus the priorities of the charter patrol program they should be moved from fisheries management to stock assessment.
As well, 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 4 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 3 years and is looking into some hardware and software upgrades to reduce the cost of operations for 2009.
The QCI Salmon Unlimited Society has completed several projects in partnership DFO and the Ministry of Highways to improve fish passage through culverts at the north end of the islands.
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 Engel traveled to Harrison Hot Springs to participate in the CIP Education Coordinators meeting in August.This meeting provided 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.
A small amount of habitat restoration work has been funded by FIA over the past few years.This year in response to the findings of a forest practices board audit which identified problems with fish passage through metal pipe culverts, additional money has been dedicated to assess culverts on older active logging roads to identify fish passage potential issues.Unfortunately this process overlooks other types of stream crossings and most of the older roads on Haida Gwaii do not have metal pipes.