Roundtable-QCI/Haida Gwaii-Oct 2007
QCI/HAIDA GWAII ROUND TABLE
SEHAB Rep – George Farrell/Leandre Vigneault
Community Involvement Area – Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii
Community Advisor – Christina Engel
Individuals and stewardship groups in Skidegate Inlet have become very concerned about the collapse of chum salmon stocks in the last 5-6 years. Upon further investigation it appears evident that chum stocks have collapsed (except for a few site specific streams) in the whole North Coast. Local fisherman are aware of declines of stocks caused by environmental conditions and habitat loss. Many are convinced that the recent reports (radio and newspaper) of miles of illegal nets on the high seas are having an even more devastating effect on specific species. In this view only Chinook and Coho are not being affected by this illegal fishing. In view of the concern generated in the community, the Northern Trollers Association, Hecate Strait Streamkeepers and Haida Fisheries have agreed to meet and discuss options for verifying and highlighting this concern and providing a political push to monitor and enforce actions against illegal fishing on the high seas.
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 appeared to be an area management financial strategy in the past few years, 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 was minimal last fiscal year, the accumulated cuts are negatively impacting program delivery this year. The 30 year volunteer commitment fostered through the CIP in the Pacific Region is being denigrated by short sited Federal, Regional and Area management decisions.
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, financially 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.
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.
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. Community Advisor, Christina Engel, has held a successful fish health planning meeting for all Haida Gwaii facilities. Engineering and biological support for volunteer groups from the Resource Restoration Unit since Y2K has never approached the support received prior to the Y2K reorg.
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 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 last year and has built on this past success this year.
Good relations between Hecate Strait Streamkeepers, Parks Canada, Haida Fisheries (HFP) and DFO Community Involvement continue. However, further funding for both juvenile and adult enumeration and habitat restoration in Gwaii Hanas has not been secured.
In an abrogation of its responsibility and mandate DFO will not inspect any of several dozen of streams south of Darwin Sound (and in all areas of the islands) this year. Streams, which are inspected by the 2 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 Tllel River Coho (thanks to the Tllel Watershed Society).
Several educators (4) from Haida Gwaii traveled to Bamfield 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.
Salmon Unlimited and the Community Involvement Program have financially supported the Port Clements Salmon Enhancement Club’s 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 for Selwyn Inlet continues. CA Christina Engel and HSS technical support are gathering chum eggs this October. The eggs and fry will be incubated and reared at the Pallant Creek Hatchery.
The coho and chum enhancement program (NTA & HSS) for Skidegate Inlet and east coast Graham Island are continuing their broodstock collection this fall. 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.
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.
The ITQ “test fishery” as a resource management tool is of great concern. Many believe ITQ’s will eliminate the owner operator which has been the backbone of our small communities. The rights to commercially fish will become concentrated in the hands of a small number of corporations. The creation of ITQ’s privatizes a common resource and is being resisted by coastal communities and the active fishing community. DFO fish managers miscalculated quotas and because of this error in judgement (lack of data) cut off the last part of the season for many trollers.
The implication of the lack of funding to implement the EPM Plan is of concern 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.