Roundtable-QCI/Haida Gwaii-Feb 2008
QCI/HAIDA GWAII ROUND TABLE
SEHAB Rep – George Farrell/Leandre Vigneault
Community Involvement Area – Queen Charlotte Islands/Haida Gwaii
Community Advisor – Christina Engel
1. CIP Budget Cuts = less partnerships and reduced service by CA
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) 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 sited 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 some other management areas of the Pacific Region. Although the extent of program delivery damage through budget cuts was minimized through attrition (logging camp closures) in previous fiscal years, significant and historic programs have had to be suspended for lack of funds.
CA Christina Engel and HSS technical support could not gather chum eggs from Selwyn inlet this October because of the above mentioned budget cuts. The chum eggs which have been incubated and reared at the Pallant Creek Hatchery since the closure of Sewell were not gathered. Thus the partnership between the Pallant Creek Hatchery (Haida Fisheries), Northern Trollers (NTA), Hecate Strait Streamkeepers and the Community Involvement Program in the chum enhancement program for Selwyn Inlet has been discontinued.
2. Chum Crisis
A chum crisis committee has been formed consisting of members from HSS, TWS, and NTA, (with support from the CA, Gowgaia Institute and Haida Fisheries). General consensus of the group ‘the chum are missing’ – there’s been a slow, steady decline of chum stocks in the past 4 to 5 years and recent evidence (escapement #’s) suggest the stocks may be approaching extinction levels in some areas on the Queen Charlottes. A major decline or extinction of our chum stocks will adversely affect all other species. Chum play a major role in the health of Coho salmon, our riparian areas and are an important contributing factor to our balanced ecosystems.
3. Stock Assessment
Locally, DFO has made a good choice by supporting one coho fence count on the Tlell River. The Tlell Watershed Society (TWS) has forged successful partnerships to continue operating the only wild adult coho and pink salmon counting fish 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 3 years. TWS has been in discussion with stock assessment in Prince Rupert about a multi-year funding arrangement and hope that the Tlell fish fence becomes an integral part of a DFO strategy to consistency support data collection for implementation of the Wild Salmon Policy. Other important past funders for the Tlell River fish counting fence have been: QCI Salmon Unlimited, Pacific Salmon Foundation and Gwaii Trust Society. For the 2007 season we have had a very informal commitment of funds from QCI Salmon Unlimited but have not received any funds to date. The TWS will also be seeking to establish a multi-year funding arrangement with this group.
The TWS successfully installed and operated a new underwater video counting system in 2006 and this system was used again in 2007. The system allows for a lower cost, more accurate count of the salmon run. A lack of committed funds to the project until later in the salmon spawning season delayed fish counting work in 2007 and the video counting is still in progress. The old and dangerously corroded steel fish fence walkways were also replaced with aluminum walkways this year. Frequent and extreme high water during the 2007 counting season resulted in minor damage to the fish counting fence. The TWS intends to apply to the Pacific Salmon Foundation for funds to complete repairs to the fence in 2008.
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. Spawner surverys for chum have been reduced by >80 % since 1995. Coho spawner counts have been virtually eliminated except for interested locals and volunteers collecting broodstock.
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 an abrogation of its responsibility and mandate DFO did not inspect any of several dozen of streams this year. The few 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) except for the Tllel River Coho (thanks to
the Tllel Watershed Society). Unfortunately, flooding prevented Haida Fisheries from conducting any AUC counts on the Deena River.
As has been mentioned the partnership between the Pallant Creek Hatchery (Haida Fisheries), Northern Trollers Association, and Hecate Strait Streamkeepers in the chum enhancement program for Selwyn Inlet has been discontinued.
The coho and chum enhancement program (NTA, ABG, & HSS) for Skidegate Inlet and east coast Graham Island had difficulty in meeting egg targets for both Chum and Coho because of seriously low numbers of chum, below average numbers of coho , and heavy flooding. Many new streams have been added to their enhancement efforts concentrating 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 coho enhancement program for Masset Inlet continues.
The Port Clements Salmon Enhancement Club meet its coho egg take target. Mamin River coho returns were reported by volunteers to be below average. Coho fry are being ponded the first week of February. The hatchery upgrade continues to provide a much improved environment for fish culture.
Husby Forest Products is supporting the last isolated volunteer hatchery on Haida Gwaii. Technical and logistical support for broodstock collection is very difficult for CA Christina Engel because of budget constraints. Flood conditions made broodstock collection difficult. Engineering staff at the camp recently shocked and picked their eggs.
All schools on Haida Gwaii have incubators running. Education coordinator Brian Skelton is delivering eggs and salmon life cycle and habitat talks from the end of January thru the second week of February. A 12 session Matter in Motion and stream rehabilitation course beginning in March is again being offered to the Queen Charlotte Senior Secondary Outdoor Ed Program. The ALMathers OE program is also in the planning stages. Details are still to be worked out but it is hoped that CA Engel, Habitat Biologist Cowan and Habitat technician McDiarmid will be able to support Brian in this valuable and successful education program. It is planned to apply for PSF funding for materials.
In other matters, the Council of the Haida Nation and the Province of BC agreed to protect of much of the unlogged portion the Tlell River watershed through the Haida Gwaii Strategic Land Use Agreement signed in mid-December 2007. For the past 15 years the TWS has actively pursued the conservation and protection of the Tlell River watershed through various activities, including support for the CHN in land use planning. A community feast celebrating this historic agreement was held Jan 31 with the Premier and other dignitaries in attendance.
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.
Chronic under funding for essential DFO services combined with a dysfunctional area management scheme have led to:
1. reduction in CIP program delivery and an under valued volunteer stewardship community
2. an abrogation of DFO responsibility to inspect and assess salmon streams.
Additional monies should be returned to the DFO by Ottawa to support data collection (on the water, real time, real people) and science based monitoring of successes and failures in the creation of Conservation Units and Habitat Status Assessment Monitoring. The health of our salmon populations and the Wild Salmon Policy’s success depends on adequate monitoring, which at this time is missing. Strategic plans and management strategies supporting an operational framework could outline where and how additional funds should and are being used.
DFO should return the PIP to its own Regional Division which could avoid area managers making financial decisions that have a negative impact by CA or 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 a regionally supported Division, returning it 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.