Roundtable-QCI/Haida Gwaii-Feb 2007
QCI/HAIDA GWAII ROUND TABLE
SEHAB Rep – George Farrell
Community Involvement Area – Queen Charlotte Islands
Community Advisor – Christina Engel
In contrast to Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) written and verbal communications to the public about support for volunteerism and stewardship the Community Involvement Program (CIP) and Advisor (CA) are threatened yearly with significant budget cuts on the North Coast (15%+). This appears to be an area management financial strategy and similar threats of cuts to CIP are not being experienced in other areas of the Pacific Region. Although the extent of program delivery damage through budget cuts was minimal this fiscal year, the 30 year volunteer commitment fostered through the CIP on Haida Gwaii is being denigrated by short sited Area management decisions.
I believe it is imperative that DFO return the CIP to its own Regional Division which would avoid area managers making financial decisions that have a negative impact by area. 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 it’s own Regional staff outside the area management model.
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 has been reduced to a dangerously low level by DFO over the last 20 years. DFO has made a good choice by supporting one coho fence count on the Tlell River. However, over the last 3 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 Policies success depends on adequate monitoring which at this time is missing.
Many on Haida Gwaii believe that a return to a separate Community Involvement Division within DFO along with dedicated planning teams for each Community Advisor’s area is a
number 1 priority. At the very least a region wide standard of planning should be established for all areas.
The Tllel Watershed Society (TWS) has forged successful partnerships to continue operating the only adult counting fence on Haida Gwaii. The CIP continues to be the 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 last year and again this year. 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. Coho migration was late this year because of low water levels. However the run size was good with about 10k full cycle adults and 2.5k jacks.
Good relations between Hecate Strait Streamkeepers, Parks Canada, Haida Fisheries (HFP) and DFO Community Involvement continue. Adult Coho and Chum enumeration on 7 Lyell Island streams were completed last fall season. In an abrogation of its responsibility and mandate DFO did not inspect any of several dozen of streams south of Darwin Sound this year. Streams, which were inspected by the 2 charter patrolment, could 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 7 Lyell Island streams, the Deena River (thanks to Haida Fisheries) and the Tllel River (thanks to the Tllel Watershed Society).
Students from local schools have set up their classroom incubators and received their coho eggs from Brian Skelton in January and February. Students at Port Clements Elementary completed a “bug” study and a weight sampling study to complement their feeding the coho program at the Port Clements Hatchery. Josina Davies complements the island wide education program by continuing to provide Ocean curriculum in Haida Gwaii classrooms.
Partnerships between Salmon Unlimited and the Port Clements Salmon Enhancement Club have been progressing. Salmon Unlimited has financially supported the hatchery upgrade. The upgrade at the hatchery has been a complete success. Both the quality (O2) and quantity of water has been significantly improved. A backup water recirc system has also been installed.
The partnership between the Pallant Creek Hatchery (Haida Fisheries), Northern Trollers (NTA), and Hecate Strait Streamkeepers in the chum enhancement program in Selwyn Inlet continues. CA Christina Engel and HSS technical support managed to get several thousand Chum eggs for Dass Creek. The chum eggs were transported by boat to Pallant Creek Hatchery where the eggs will be incubated and fry reared. Broodstock collection for the south shore Skidegate Inlet chum enhancement program (NTA & HSS) collected 100,000 + eggs. Fry are presently being ponded at the NTA Hatchery.
The Ministry of Highways has partnered DFO, Pacific Salmon Foundation and Hecate Strait Streamkeepers to continue improve culvert and fish passage problems along Highway 16.
This positive involvement of a provincial government Ministry has been very encouraging for volunteers.
The key issue for Haida Gwaii and the North Coast generally may very well be Fisheries Reform- Fisheries Act changes. Many fear the Conservative government is intent on privatizing habitat protection (EPMP) and the “fish resource”. In reading the Fisheries Ministers comments on changes to the Fisheries Act the word habitat is rarely if ever used and the support of east coast commercial fishers interest is heavily utilized.
As an example of misrepresentation of fisherman’s support in the Pacific Region look to the ITQ Area F troll Chinook so called “demonstration fishery”. This fishery was not “voluntary” as there was no real choice for commercial fisherman wishing to fish while Chinnok were in the area. More importantly ITQ’s will eliminate the owner operator that are the backbone of our small communities. The creation of ITQ’s privatizes a common resource and is being resisted by coastal communities and the active fishing community.
The implication of the implementation of the EPM Plan is just beginning to be understood in the Northcoast. This plan should require active monitoring of habitat (baseline data) prior to industrial or linear development. The lack of funds to support field staff to accomplish this primary function is evident.
As an example of what may be occurring in the Northcoast: The DFO QCI (District 9) Habitat Biologist has been a true champion of habitat protection
and community stewardship. It appears his position (Bi 3) will be replaced by a HMB based out of Rupert whose travel budget to QCI will be dependent on the whims of area based management and politicians. New habitat monitoring positions (EPMP) are being created for the north coast based out of Prince Rupert. (to pay for this?) Some or all Habitat Technicians positions in the North Coast will be eliminated, current BI 3 positions will be reclassified BI 2 and become office jobs.
Currently the QCI BI 3(soon to retire) is field oriented, intimately knowledgeable on most streams on QCI and the stewardship community. Habitat technicians on the North Coast are typically very involved with watersheds, industry and community.
Business and individuals who alter or damage fish habitat are “users” of the resource and should be managed and regulated at least as closely as commercial fisherman.