No More Mr. Nice Guy!

Fish that never got caught.

To all of you out there who love steelhead, especially those revered Thompson fish, you need to pay attention to what our Federal Government’s top gun for fisheries has said in the letter I have posted below. This is Minister of  Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Dominic LeBlanc’s response to the joint letter sent by the four prominent recreational fishing advocacy groups in British Columbia earlier this fall (posted here on Oct 6 “Tears for the Thompson”) when it became abundantly clear there was an extreme conservation concern looming for not just the Thompson and Chilcotin fish but also four other closely related stocks that may as well be considered extirpated at this point. Before reading Minister LeBlanc’s letter, here are a few points that will help interpret what he is or isn’t saying.

  1. Note that it took two months to respond. In that time there were numerous commercial and First Nations net fishing openings all along the Interior Fraser Steelhead (IFS) migration corridors from Johnstone Strait between northern Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland coast to Hope, 100 miles up the Fraser River. Those openings targeted enhanced chum salmon destined for east coast Vancouver Island streams and, more importantly, for lower Fraser River tributaries. The chum salmon run timing overlaps the IFS run timing 100%.
  2. The letter comes well after it is crystal clear the status of the two notable IFS steelhead stocks, Thompson and Chilcotin are so deep into the extreme conservation concern zone that his own staff have been an integral part of defining, it is nothing short of negligent to fail to acknowledge how severe that crisis is.
  3. How nice that his department “considers” steelhead. That language is a bit old to say the least. Its the same that has been applied to the Skeena, the Dean and the Fraser for years if not decades. Dear Mr. LeBlanc, you just don’t get it. This year was not just any year. There is a monumental difference between protecting 80% of the run “with a high degree of certainty” (anyone know what that means?) when there are several thousand steelhead than when there are 200. And, never mind the two day gill net fishery for those with a conventional commercial fishing license. What about all the FN fisheries that occurred throughout the entire IFS run timing over a much greater length of the Fraser River, not to mention (again) all those seine and gill net openings over those 200+ miles between Johnstone Strait and the mouth of the Fraser?

OK, on with the letter so readers can judge for themselves if I’m overreacting:


NOV 242017

Mr. Rodney Clapton
BC Federation of Drift Fishers Mr. Rich Ronyecz
BC Federation of Fly Fishers Mr. Brian Braidwood
The Steelhead Society of BC
Mr. Harvey Andrusak
BC Wildlife Federation
c/o Michelle Galang
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Dear Mr. Clapton and co-signatories:


Thank you for your correspondence of September 26, 2017, regarding the Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead stocks. I regret the delay in responding.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) understands and shares your concern for the conservation of weak stocks and takes the conservation of Interior Fraser River steelhead (a stock group including Thompson and Chilcotin populations) seriously. DFO co-operates with the Province of British Columbia on the management of steelhead populations. Co-operative activities involve the sharing of data and the exchange of scientific information, as well as further development of assessment and management tools. The Department considers conservation objectives for steelhead populations in the management of Pacific salmon fisheries.

DFO is aware that steelhead populations face several diverse threats, including poor marine survival, habitat impacts or degradation, shifts in life history (anadromous versus non- anadromous forms), climate change and potential impacts from interceptions in salmon fisheries. The Department’s management objective for Interior Fraser River steelhead is to minimize the impact of Canadian fisheries managed by DFO, taking into account conservation concerns for these populations.

For Fraser River commercial gill net fisheries, the strategy is to protect 80 percent of the Interior Fraser River steelhead run with a high degree of certainty. The result is a limited one- to two-day opening in late October after the majority of steelhead are expected to have passed the lower Fraser River. Additionally, other commercial south coast fisheries are required to implement measures to minimize harm to all steelhead caught incidentally in fisheries targeting other species.

There are ongoing discussions between DFO and the Province of British Columbia about potential fisheries for harvesting Fraser River chum which would be consistent with the Interior Fraser River steelhead management objective. To assist in fishery planning, DFO is developing a model to evaluate the exposure of Interior Fraser River steelhead to all fisheries in both marine areas and the Fraser River. The Department will continue to communicate with the Province, First Nations, and stakeholders on objectives and strategies for addressing steelhead impacts in fisheries administered by the Department via a steelhead sub-committee in association with its lntegrated Harvest Planning Committee for salmon.
DFO agrees that habitat protection is an important aspect of managing Interior steelhead. The Department invests and participates in habitat restoration projects in the Thompson and Chilcotin systems that benefit salmon species, including steelhead, and contribute to some relevant watershed planning initiatives.
Regarding consideration for listing under the Species at Risk Act, Interior Fraser steel head is on the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada’s (COSEWIC) high-priority candidate list for species assessment. If approved by COSEWIC at the Wildlife Species Assessment Meeting scheduled for November 2017, Interior Fraser steelhead is likely to be part of COSEWIC’s fall 2018 call for bids for the preparation of new status reports.
Thank you for writing. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
Yours sincerely, Dominic LeBlanc,
P.C., Q.C., M.P. Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
c.c.: The Honourable Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P. Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Mr. Terry Beech, M.P. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Burnaby North-Seymour
Mr. Jonathan Wilkinson, M.P. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change North Vancouver
The Honourable Lana Popham, M.L.A. Minister of Agriculture Government of British Columbia
The Honourable Doug Donaldson, M.L.A. Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development Government of British Columbia


Now, a couple of closing points.

  1. “DFO is developing a model to evaluate the exposure of IFS to all fisheries in both marine areas and the Fraser River.” Do Minister LeBlanc and his underlings who obviously prepared his response think this is going to do something to address the problems? Is the Minister going to close all those intercepting commercial and First Nations fisheries according to his oft touted precautionary principle to STOP the carnage while the model is being developed or is it going to be the same old same old status quo while the last of the IFS slip into oblivion? When is conservation conservation Mr. Minister?
  2. A “steelhead sub-committee” of the Integrated Harvest Planning Committee for salmon. OK, now I get it. I always thought the acronym of import was IFMP (Integrated Fishery Management Plan) and that was DFO’s forum for addressing conservation concerns prior to the fishing season. Now I understand the agenda is harvest planning for salmon. I wonder who gets to participate in the steelhead sub-committee and what credentials they bring to the table.
  3. We’re supposed to be comforted by the remarks re COSEWIC? IFS steelhead are on the priority candidate list and if they get past that there would be a call for preparation of new status reports a year from now? If that even happens it would be another two years at least before there was even a recommendation to list IFS as endangered (I’ll assume they would get past the threatened designation). Then there is the Cabinet review process beyond that and all sorts of escape routes to avoid doing the obvious. Tell us again what happens in the meantime. By then Rome will be in ashes, cold ashes and all that will remain is to pick through them for artifacts to place on museum shelves.

Remember Minister LeBlanc, this will all go down on your watch. You will not be forgotten.


Comments 9

  • Umm, on Nov. 16th, or thereabouts, COSEWIC issued a call for bids for a status report on Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead. Glad somebody’s taking this situation seriously (other than the usual suspects).

  • The minister’s letter composed no doubt by the Ministry of Vacuous and Long-winded Responses. Here though is faint hope – the Telegraph, London , 28, November, 2017 “Lawyers Call For International Court for the Environment.” How I wish that I could leave a dead fish on the minister’s desk as an interim action.

  • Hi
    Last week I was at a meeting with DFO. The question to DFO was, is the current management model to manage our fish to zero? The answer was is yes.

    For example if the Salmon and Steelhead runs are high or low the amount of commercial fishing will not be changed. So that means done years there won’t be over fishing and other years there will be. That’s a fact.

  • In other words they (DFO) don’t have the cohones to do anything other than sit on their hands. What a country we live in. An environment minister and prime minister talking up the environment and how us Canadians love it and want to keep it pristine but can’t do SFA to save a species and probably several they way these fish runs are looking. It leaves me dumbfounded.

  • When 186 gill net boats were allowed to fish the mouth of the dean river again this summer…like they did in 2013…DFO and the ara manager has the same response to my pleading to them. The response is that the steelhead swim higher in the water column…and there is very little kill of this wild summer run stock…the 2017 summer run steelhead on The Dean river was the weakest on record! Now when they tell me that they are after chum for pet food…what the fck …stop the uneccesary killing of wild anything…use farm raised fish to feed the dogs and cats of the world! and for that matter….I would like to feed the decision makers to the dogs!

  • Maybe if we Trump him with a twitter campaign he might listen but don’t hold your breath.
    This was my first tweet to him, trick is to do it until he starts blocking you then re-tweet the facts to the news media. Dirty pool but it works for the POTUS so who knows it might wake a few people up.
    This bit I sent him seems logical and not at all finger pointing or nasty;
    @DLeBlancNB Please sir; pay more careful attention to the concerns currently being raised about the ongoing collapse of the entire Fraser River fisheries. Due to largely human caused over exploitation of once abundant anadromous and diadromous aquatic resources.

  • Wow! Just heard that William Shatner has appealed to Minister Romeo LeBlanc to appreciate the seriousness of the crisis around Thompson and Chilcotin steelheads and immediately ban net fishing in the lower Fraser. (Kamloops, CBC radio 10:30 AM 12 December). Captain Kirk may have struck a resounding blow for our cause. (Shatner is of course a distinguished actor and more than the memorable Captain Kirk.) Good for him!

    • WOW! is right. Once again we hear from this particular celebrity on matters fishy. The following is a piece penned by me as an op/ed piece after a similar episode last year, which followed one before that. Amounting to a series of cameo appearances only. This time around, simply substitute-in steelhead for sea lice or whales.
      ” In an act of apparent celestial intervention Capt. James T. Kirk, Commander of the Starship Enterprise, virtually beamed down to Canada’s West coast to confront the hoards of sea-lice viciously attacking Pacific salmon stocks. Sea-lice – a type of parasitic cling-on – were said to be overwhelming and killing-off their free ranging salmon hosts, and multiplying at an exponential rate due to proliferation of open water net pens of coastal salmon farms. The threat to the cosmos was clear. As if in parallel with the script from an earlier episode, the one where the good Captain saves the whales, clearly it was time to do the same for Pacific salmon.
      In reality, on the TV news that night Hollywood entertainer William Shatner, aka. Capt. Kirk, pledged to lend his star power to the plight of B.C.’s free ranging salmon. The celebrated cause and kelp-roots movement to rid the coast of salmon farm net pens was already well underway with protest rallies, an Island long awareness march to the Provincial legislature, staged photo ops and reams of newsprint spelling it all out. In an effort to halt the spread of sea-lice from farm fish to salmon on the loose, the theory is; if you remove the sea, you remove the sea-lice. Hence, the espoused alternative to open-water net pens is closed containment systems on land.
      Garnering further “star power” could prove helpful in this movement to end the use of open water net pens. Perhaps an avid fisherman like Henry “Fonzy” Winkler could also be persuaded to weigh in. Or, Willie Nelson with his remarkable track record in promoting awareness and fundraising through Farm Aid concerts could sing for the fishes. Maybe rock ‘n’ rollers like Randy Bachman and Neil Young could team up again to rail against sea-lice, as they once did against a stinky pulp mill on Vancouver Island.
      Adding “star power” to a cause certainly has its benefits in elevating public profile. Having that celebrity alone will not save the day, or turn the tide. The facts have to support the need for change. Scientists and politicians have to be hitched to the wagon too. All of us little people who see that this is the right thing to do must pitch in and make our voices heard. Oh wait, we have been harping on it for a few years now. Although it seems a daunting challenge some times, the salmon farming industry has to be convinced that closed containment is preferable to open water net pens, both economically, politically and socially. In retrospect, celestial intervention may just be the answer after all.”

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