The announcements of more commercial fishing for Fraser River chums just keep coming. As I’ve said previously, if you chart all the various classes of openings on the Thompson steelhead migration route and timing, its all but impossible to find a window that would allow a handful of those endangered fish safe passage. Everyone wants to put crosshairs on the commercial fishermen and their friends in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, justifiably so. But who dares mention those other fishers who are (yup, I’ll dare say it) effectively unconstrained. Case in point – here is a typical announcement copied from the DFO Fishery Notices web site:
ABORIGINAL – Salmon: Economic Opportunities
FN1140-ABORIGINAL – Salmon: Economic Opportunities – Chum and hatchery marked coho salmon – Area 29 and Region 2 – Lower Fraser Area
A commercial economic opportunity fishery is authorized for Aitchelitz, Cheam, Kwaw-kwaw-apilt, Peters, Shxwha:y Village, Shxw’ow’hamel, Skowkale, Skwah, Soowahlie, Squiala, Sumas, Tzeachten, Yakweakwioose, and the Yale First Nation for chum salmon using set and drift gill nets in the Fraser River. This fishery is open for set nets from 16:00 hours Monday, October 30 to 16:00 hours Tuesday, October 31, 2017 and for drift nets from 08:00 hours to 16:00 hours Tuesday, October 31, 2017 in the following area: portions of Area 29, the mainstem of the Fraser River from the Port Mann Bridge to Hope Bridge. Only individuals designated by the Aitchelitz, Cheam, Kwaw-kwaw-apilt, Peters, Shxwha:y Village, Shxw’ow’hamel, Skowkale, Skwah, Soowahlie, Squiala, Sumas, Tzeachten, Yakweakwioose, and the Yale First Nation are authorized to participate in this fishery. All aspects of the communal licence will be enforced. Fish harvesters are advised to contact their band for a copy of the conditions of their fishing licence. Notes: The target species in this fishery is chum salmon. Retention of hatchery marked coho salmon (i.e. fish with a healed scar in place of the adipose fin) caught incidentally is also permitted. There will be non-retention of chinook, sockeye, pink, wild coho salmon (i.e. adipose fin is present), steelhead and sturgeon. Opportunities to harvest chum salmon will be constrained by management objectives for Interior Fraser steelhead which is a stock of concern presently co-migrating in the Fraser River. All non-target species will be released back to the water alive and unharmed. It is mandatory that all salmon retained under the authority of this licence be transported to the nearest landing station and made available for inspection. A monitor shall be present during all landing of catch to record the number and weight of each species of salmon delivered. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is monitoring seabird by-catch to determine potential impact on bird populations under current fishing effort and bird numbers. Fishers are requested to submit all dead birds entangled in nets to ECCC for species confirmation and DNA analysis to determine the colony of origin. Please drop carcasses off at a local DFO office, or contact ECCC directly by calling the Wild Bird Mortality Reporting Line 1-866-431-2473 (BIRD). Handle birds with gloves, double bag dead birds. Label bag with date, time, location, fishery opening and vessel name (skipper name is not needed). Alternatively, please send photographs of birds with a reference object such as a coin, and the date, time, location, fishery opening and vessel name to email@example.com. Questions: contact Laurie Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org, 604-862-8817).
FOR MORE INFORMATION Sheldon Evers, Resource Manager, Fraser and Interior Area at (604) 666-8049.
Fisheries & Oceans Operations Center – FN1140
Sent October 26, 2017 at 1142
OK DFO, can you please share with us how set gill nets permitted for 24 hr can possibly result in release of all non-target species alive and unharmed ? Of the seven species with a reasonable chance of being encountered, only one and a half (chum and adipose clipped coho) are supposed to be retained. Pray tell, who is out there on the fishing grounds monitoring any aspect of this gill net fishery spread over 14 First Nations and at least 100 km of river? Prove to us there is any credibility whatsoever associated with whatever numbers may eventually surface? The same goes for the drift nets. How many landing stations? Where? Who are the monitors and inspectors? Are there reports on how many of those other 5 1/2 species were caught prior to being released back to the water alive and unharmed?
I’m so comforted by the recognition that Interior Fraser steelhead are a “stock of concern”? Nothing exceptional though. Just because people are contemplating legal action against DFO for negligence, just because there has been a serious effort underway for months to fast track an endangered species listing for those fish, just because DFO’s own test fishery is showing the worst ever return and their technical wizards have signed off on models that accept the spring 2018 spawner abundance estimates are deep, deep into the extreme conservation concern zone…..how could any of that warrant something beyond the same old, same old one liner DFO has been including in its Fisheries Notices for years?
The bird business is instructive. An entire paragraph devoted to handling and submitting dead birds, not endangered species dead birds, just birds!? Why not a wild steelhead mortality reporting line? Oops, I forgot, they’re all released alive and unharmed so there’s nothing to report. I wonder why the birds aren’t released alive an unharmed. They must be much more vulnerable to gill nets than are steelhead and chinook, and coho, and pinks and sockeye….and sturgeon.
I’ll step right out on the end of a limb and say that if this was a non-aboriginal fishery the rules would be different and there would be some hard words spoken between various fish and fishing advocacy organizations. Not so with FNs. Governments have obviously decided to use fish to atone for the perceived sins of our forefathers. Steelhead are the easiest to disregard in that context. DFO could care less and the province is not in the game.