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Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Smallmouth Bass in Cultus Lake

Published on Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

A couple of months ago, we published an alert notice on the presence of smallmouth bass in Cultus Lake when the northern pikeminnow capture crew encountered a couple during the program in the spring. There was surprisingly fair amount of skepticism of this news even though the notice came from BC’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

This morning, I accompanied Region 2 biologist Colin Schwindt, and Martina Beck from Ministry’s invasive fauna unit head who spent the day sampling the lake for specimens. Several smallmouth bass were captured, including both juveniles (1 year old) and adults (3 ~ 5 year old). Their stomach samples were collected and their age will be determined at the lab.

Smallmouth bass in Cultus Lake

How smallmouth bass will impact native species in Cultus Lake including endangered sockeye salmon is unknown at this point, because there simply isn’t enough information to determine that.

Colin has asked anglers who fish the lake to retain smallmouth bass if you encounter them (the current daily quota is 20), and bring them to DFO’s Cultus Lake Salmon Research Lab (4222 Columbia Valley Highway).

More information can be found on this page.

Fish Selectively During Sockeye Salmon Fishing Closures

Published on Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

The non-tidal portion of the Fraser River is closed to sockeye salmon fishing after today. This year’s opening was almost a month long, so I hope everyone has had a chance to bring home some of the finest eating salmon. The good news is that the river will remain open for two salmon species – Chinook and chum salmon. Traditionally, the Lower Fraser River is closed to all salmon fishing throughout September, so several vulnerable runs, including Interior coho salmon and steelhead, can be protected. To still have some salmon recreational fishing opportunities available on the Fraser River this month is a bonus.

The key point that anglers should remember is to selectively target chinook and chum salmon only. In the past ten years, my colleagues and I in the Sport Fishing Advisory Committee have repeatedly asked Fisheries and Oceans Canada to define selective angling methods so they can be enforced during specific species closures. By doing so, it would result in more fishing opportunities for you if by-catches can be avoided. Instead, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has chosen not to do so, and continued to issue a “request” for selective fishing in fishery notices. This puts the recreational fishing community in a difficult place. While most anglers abide to that request, some would still choose to bottom bounce for chinook salmon and incidentally hook sockeye salmon in the process. When Fisheries and Oceans Canada observes and determines that by-catches of sockeye salmon and other closed species become too frequent, the entire fishery is shut down due to the lack of compliance of a “request” which cannot be enforced in the first place. It is a frustrating scenario and it needs to be changed, so your fishing opportunities would not be lost while conservation goals could be met.

The directors of the Fraser River Sportfishing Alliance and other business owners of the Fraser Valley recreational fishing community have been working hard on this issue. Starting tomorrow as sockeye salmon fishing closes, we are asking all anglers to stop bottom bouncing and practice selective fishing methods only. We are not asking you to do so because you should comply to a loosely defined request by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We are asking you so the recreational fishing community can take the lead on proper fishery management, to avoid by-catches of species which we are trying to protect while enjoying the opportunities available. We want to see anglers out bar fishing for chinook salmon, and practice safe catch and release when a closed species is caught. You can also cast and retrieve lures in waters which are appropriate for the method. The take home message is that we should all avoid catching sockeye salmon, coho salmon and steelhead in the next several weeks. Thank you for the support.

Save the Interior Fraser Steelhead this Christmas!

Published on Friday, December 15th, 2017

Can you fulfill my Christmas wish this year?

Around a month ago, I talked about the current demise of the Interior Fraser River steelhead populations (Thompson and Chilcotin Rivers) and asked you to sign a petition so the angling community can come together to do something about it. That particular petition has gained tremendous amount of media attention in the past four weeks. It is bitter sweet. On one hand, it’s fantastic to finally see the public being concerned about a species that really don’t have a whole lot of value to human beside sportfishing. On the other hand, it is sad that we had to wait until this stage to finally take action.

This week, my colleague Eric Taylor at UBC has also shared his concerns on these steelhead populations. Dr Taylor is an avid angler as well as a zoologist who specializes on several native fish species in the Pacific Northwest. He is also the chairman of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and has launched an emergency assessment for these steelhead. We are losing the genetic components of some rather special populations of steelhead at a rapid rate, so we need to move fast to save what’s left.

This Christmas, I have one last request for all of you to do, which is to sign the official e-petition at Canada’s House of Commons. This petition, initiated by The Steelhead Society of B.C.’s member Poul Bech and sponsored by MP Fin Donnelly, is asking the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to suspend ALL non-selective gill net fisheries in the Fraser River during the migratory time of these steelhead. Once the number of signatures reaches 500, it will be brought up to the House of Commons next year. Lets get it done so we can finally keep these nets out of the water next fall!

The Unnecessary Demise of an Iconic Species

Published on Monday, November 20th, 2017

Steelhead

By now if you do some kind of recreational fishing in British Columbia, you must have heard about the predicted return numbers for this year’s Interior Fraser River steelhead, which are pretty dismal. The expected number of steelhead returning to the Thompson River is 145 fish, while Chilcotin River’s return is expected to be 45 fish. The number of fish spawning in the spring will most likely be even lower than that once overwintering mortality is taken into account.

The Thompson River returns, just one decade ago, were still in the thousands. Lets pause for a minute and think about the rate of this decline. If an iconic species of animal in British Columbia, take grizzly bear, or bald eagle for example, had a 50%+ decrease after one breeding cycle, imagine what the public outrage would be.

The trouble with fish is that, they are in the water. You can’t see them and you don’t know how they’re doing. Once a fish species loses its commercial value, it no longer is a public interest. A handful of lucky steelhead anglers who have had the privilege to shake hands with these fish, have a sentimental connection with them and will be their advocates, but their voices are not enough to bring these populations back to what they used to be. The recovery of a species requires the support of ALL British Columbians, and this is where you come in.

Now, I can’t sit here and tell you what a magnificent sportfish the Thompson River steelhead is or that we are saving them so future generations can enjoy catching them. Firstly, I’ve never fished for them so I wouldn’t know, and this is not about fishing anymore. The loss of a species is tragic, especially when it is preventable. The goal is no longer to save an iconic fish so some fishermen can feel the tug again. This is about saving genetically distinct populations of fish which cannot be replaced once they are gone.

The Interior Fraser River steelhead’s endemic range is huge. From the streams where they hatch to the Pacific Ocean, too many things can go wrong in tens of thousands squared kilometres. On top of natural challenges such as predation and unfavourable oceanic conditions, their survival is impacted by plenty of human activities. Some of these human-caused problems take time to resolve, while others can be eliminated immediately.

The commercial chum salmon gill net fishery in the Lower Fraser River, which takes place during these steelhead’s returns, is one of them. When there are only 200 fish returning, it is absurd to suggest some of them can be considered as incidental by-catches so a fishery can be allowed. With a post-release mortality at over 60%, you can see how fast the population can be pushed to extinction. The trouble with saving a species, is the race against time. The rate of decline accelerates as the species approaches extinction. Ten years ago, losing 20 fish meant a 1% loss of the population. Today, it becomes 10%. Time is running out.

Our immediate action should be to pressure this government to end a commercial fishery that puts money in a few pockets at the expense of a species’ survival. You can do so by signing this current petition that has been circulating. By signing this petition, it does not guarantee the recovery of the Interior Fraser River steelhead populations, far from it. This recovery will most likely take decades so your ongoing action and support are required. Sign, share and inform others who are still unaware.

Being Kept Off the River for the Wrong Reasons

Published on Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Catching Fraser River Pink Salmon

Throwback Thursday! Exactly two years ago, Junior experienced his first pink salmon outing on the Fraser River. His job at the time was to net the fish. This fish he is ready to graduate to actually bring one in with a rod and reel.

Once every two years, many families like ours, have the privilege to enjoy this wonderful fishery for a couple of weeks. It is the perfect salmon species for young anglers. They are plentiful, eager to bite and easy to manage once on your fishing line.

I’m sure many of you are frustrated (actually that is an understatement, livid might be the appropriate term) as this fishery closure continues after yesterday’s Fraser River salmon update. Comments across our social media platforms and discussion forum make that pretty evident. While I understand the frustrations, there is quite a bit of misinformation being put out there so lets lay out the facts so you know what’s going on.

First of all, almost all of the fisheries in Region 2 are open right now. The Fraser River is closed for salmon fishing, but the negative publicity of this closure has lead anglers to believe that all rivers are closed. You can check what you can fish for and retain in each river on this page:

http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/fresh-douce/region2-eng.html

Most of the tributaries of the Lower Fraser River are still not seeing salmon returning yet, but things are slowly picking up. As always, Chilliwack/Vedder River is seeing both chinook salmon (which you can retain) and pink salmon (which you can catch and release) arriving daily at the moment.

Secondly, First Nations have the right to have their communal food and ceremonial fisheries, please don’t suggest otherwise. The constitution of your country says so. If you would like to challenge that, the supreme court of Canada would be the venue for you to do so.

Some of you have expressed your concerns on the racial remarks in the comment section. Please note that inappropriate comments do get deleted (if you can’t see the deleted comments, how would you know if comments aren’t being deleted?). Some comments that are stereotyping but not what I’d consider as racist are left alone, because both sides need to see them to understand that there is a problem when priority is given to one user group than the other. Lack of understanding from both sides leads to stereotyping, which leads to conflicts.

This blame on First Nations for the demise of Fraser River salmon is unnecessary. While the amount of fish taken seems significant, it is incomparable to what commercial fisheries harvest historically. With that said, there are issues that need to be addressed. By-catches of sockeye salmon, which apparently are a major concern in recreational fisheries, exist in in-river gill net fisheries and cannot be ignored. The illegal sales of salmon from communal fisheries by some participants need to be stopped. You can do so by reporting the sales, and not buying to end the demand. Just like in recreational fisheries, a small number of people who choose not to play by the rules gives the entire user group a bad name, which should not be used to label the entire group.

Rather than blaming the other user group which shares the same resource as you, your attention should shift toward those who manage these fisheries and pose questions which have been avoided repeatedly. Instead of simply shut down the entire fishery, why are we not looking at different options to provide some angling opportunities while ensuring the sustainability of vulnerable species? Why aren’t the options of opening pink salmon for catching and releasing, or reducing the retention quota to 2, or 1 fish, being considered? What is the target quota given for the First Nations, is it a fixed number of fish per year, or is it a ratio that is adjusted based on the size of the runs? And are we expecting that target to be reached before we can expect a recreational fishing opening? Why are terminal fisheries for pink salmon in systems like Chilliwack/Vedder and Harrison Rivers not being made available, when the rationale of the closure is to protect Fraser River sockeye salmon? Why is the Tidal Fraser River not open for pink salmon when incidental by-catches of sockeye salmon are unheard of due to the specific fishing techniques being employed for pink salmon? Why is the retention of dead sockeye salmon being permitted now in some First Nations communal fisheries when their low returns are the reason behind recreational fishing closures?

Instead of complaining about First Nations, the lack of fishing opportunities and wanting your licences refunded here, you should be phoning Barbara Mueller, the resource manager of Fraser River (604.666.2370) and Jennifer Nener (604-666-0789) at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, who should be able to answer these for you while you address your concerns. In the past several years, this community has seen a sharp decline in interest on recreational fishing among resource managers. Instead of answering questions, resource managers have taken the silent approach in the past two years. While conservation is priority to ensure the survival of future stocks, some management decisions being made are simply wrong and their socioeconomic impacts need to be addressed. When one user group is being shut out because it is the easiest way to avoid conflicts between groups, you’re simply sweeping the problems to the side which will keep growing. The recreational fishing community cannot stand by during these closures in the name of conservation while many signs indicate otherwise.

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