Blue Fish News – March 1st, 2021

In this March 1st, 2021 issue of the Blue Fish Canada News the focus is on BC’s shoreline communities and the threat to their sustainability and the fish upon which they depend. Included is a list / summary of relevant timely fishing, fish, water and other news. The Special Guest Feature is the open letter to DFO’s Minister from BC’s Public Fishery Alliance. 

This Week’s Feature — BC’s Public Fisheries and Coastal Communities

By Editor Lawrence Gunther

For years I’ve been interviewing people knowledgeable about the pacific salmon decline along Canada’s west coast. Go back through The Blue Fish Radio Show archives and you will find dozens of episodes dating back as far as 2012. I’ve spoken with conservationists, environmentalists, guides, First Nations leaders, DFO representatives, engineers, anglers, and scientists. I even featured Pacific salmon in my 2016 documentary “What Lies Below”. All this to say, I can say with confidence that there’s no “smoking gun” that has brought about the decline of wild Pacific salmon stocks.

Without doubt, there are a whole lot of people and stakeholder groups that want wild Pacific salmon stocks to recover. Unfortunately, there’s also no magic solution. It’s going to take a concerted effort on numerous fronts including resources and a commitment by our political leaders. In the meantime, there are coastal communities, indigenous and non-indigenous, who are searching for ways to sustain their way-of-life. Communities who are more than willing to work together and do what’s necessary to ensure the sustainability of wild Pacific salmon.

Here’s what we know about the economic importance and sustainability of BC’s public salmon fishery. According to the latest available economic data, in 2016 the public fishery contributed $1.1 billion to the BC economy, accounted for 9,000 jobs, and ranked as BC’s single most economically important salmon fishery. And yet, from a sustainability perspective, the public salmon fishery was responsible for harvesting only 10 per cent of the total salmon harvested in 2016. More importantly, the public fishery harvest included less than 0.5 per cent of endangered wild Chinook salmon. For DFO to be able to come up with these numbers, they depend on an extensive system of tracing, tracking and reporting based on seasonal salmon runs broken down by region, by species, and by origin. Or in other words, which fish are heading for which rivers and when. Unfortunately, this level of granularity isn’t available when measuring the impact of commercial purse seiners and gill netters responsible for 75 per cent of BC’s total yearly salmon catch.

As someone who participated as a hand-line fisher in the North Atlantic Cod fishery up until it’s closure in 1992, another story that featured in the documentary What Lies Below, I have first hand experience of a fish stock exploited to the point of no return. The Cod stock collapse was a massive ecological crisis precipitated by politics, economic pressure, scientists being ignored, corporate greed, poorly conceived economic stimulation policy, and the voices of artisanal and indigenous fishers going unheard. In many ways, a crisis like the one we are now witnessing on Canada’s west coast, starting with the river gill-net fishery and the salmon canneries over 100 years ago, the current state-of-the art purse seiner and gill netting   commercial fishing fleets, and exacerbated by climate change. Pacific salmon continue to be exploited by corporate and political interests, and it’s the coastal communities and the ecosystems upon which they depend that are paying the price.

Last summer I interviewed David Brown for an episode of The Blue Fish Radio Show. David had just received the highest civilian honour Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans can bestow. The award recognized David’s work to restore West Coast salmon. Never one to fear speaking truth to power, David’s growing frustration with DFO policies led to his founding the Public Fishery Alliance, and his leading a protest during the summer of 2020 in front of DFO’s Vancouver headquarters. Link below to listen to my conversation with David Brown shortly after the protest took place:

Public fishers are frustrated with DFO’s approach. In 2017 DFO reduced the daily harvest limit of Chinook salmon by BC’s public fishery from two to one. In April 2019 and again in 2020, DFO eliminated retention of spring Chinook by the public fishery altogether.

Once again, the Public Fishery Alliance is asking DFO to allow carefully managed science-directed local public salmon fisheries to take place. They have been assured by DFO scientists that such a sustainable public fishery is possible by focusing on hatchery fish and avoiding endangered wild Chinook. On February 16, 2021 the Public Fishing Alliance issued an open letter to the Minister of DFO asking that the department follow their mandate as stipulated by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter to DFO in 2019. You can read the open letter to the Minister – I’ve included it at the end of the Blue Fish News as our “Special Guest feature”.

I’ve spoken with numerous amazing and dedicated people over the years who know intimately the plight of the Pacific Salmon. People who have spent their life safeguarding and angling for Pacific salmon, and who are now advocating for a complete embargo on salmon fishing. Many other concerned groups and members of the public are demanding the same. To allow crucial economic and social fishing related activity vital to coastal communities will mean more work, the engagement of stakeholders, and an element of risk. What’s being asked for is considerably more involved than simply slamming the door.

The people putting forward these proposals want salmon fisheries to be restored to their former glory as much as anyone. Their social and economic future, and for many their cultural identity, are dependent on their being salmon. Can the same be said for the large commercial fishing companies that scoop salmon up by the tens-of-thousands with no regard for wild salmon vital to stock rebuilding efforts? And yet, those offshore large-scale fisheries continue.

The Public Fishery Alliance is hoping for a last-stitch effort to sustain the socio-economic viability of BC’s coastal communities and avoid what happened on Canada’s east coast. It prioritizes sustaining wild Pacific salmon stocks, and artisanal and other small-scale fisheries vital to the health of BC’s coastal communities – indigenous and non-indigenous alike. And, if it turns out scientists can’t find a reliable way to bring this about, taking into consideration local knowledge, these communities are willing to stop fishing. Putting a stop to public fisheries without first having tried to find a viable solution may be expedient, but it’s short sighted.

No doubt, we all need to step up and take responsibility for the decline in Pacific salmon our actions or inactions have set in motion. We can manage our way through to reversing this downward spiral, but because the issues are numerous and well entrenched, it’s going to take a concerted effort and time. The risk of doing too-little-to-late can only lead to nature setting its own course, and once nature has determined a new shape for the North Pacific ecosystem, it can’t be easily undone., Just look at Canada’s east coast where scientists are still scratching their heads over why Cod stocks haven’t returned despite a 28-year fishing embargo. In short, take all necessary actions to rebuild BC’s wild Pacific salmon stocks, but don’t abandon BC’s coastal communities along the way.

The Latest Fishing, Fish Health and Water Quality News


B.C. anglers pan federal response to salmon petition | The Star
Minister Jordan reminded anglers that new management measures in 2019 and 2020 were designed to allow for recreational fisheries in times and areas where stocks of concern can be avoided. Not satisfied, a Parliamentary petition, tabled Dec. 4 with 2,654 signatures, was initiated by retired Surrey resident and angler Bill Braidwood over DFO’s sweeping recreational closures of Fraser River chinook. The petition called for an amendment to the 2020 management measures that acknowledge the existence of abundant chinook runs, augmented by marked hatchery fish, that could be caught safely away from endangered populations. DFO is now considering a pilot recreation fishery on hatchery origin chinook, similar in structure to the petition request, which were tested in pilot projects last year, and is conducting a post-season review to potentially include more marked-selective fishing opportunities in the spring.

Watch your Step when wading BC’s salmon rivers | Watershed Watch Salmon Society
Between fall and spring, spawning grounds are full of vulnerable salmon redds. Studies on trout redds show that trampling can cause mortality rates between 43 – 96 per cent. A similar rate applied to wild salmon redds could be disastrous, especially for endangered populations. Find out how to identify and avoid them.


Decades of cuts to salmon monitoring leave B.C. scientists uncertain of fish populations | The Narwhal
Less than 10 per cent of spawning habitat on B.C.’s central and north coast is being monitored by creekwalkers; the people who count salmon one by one. Critics say this leaves a critical gap in knowledge that could further imperil the species.

Blue Economy sessions kick off with roundtable marathon | Welland Tribune
Canada’s fisheries minister has wrapped up her first week of roundtable discussions with stakeholders on the development of Canada’s first Blue Economy. Jordan said she heard about the importance of B.C.’s fisheries and coastal tourism from the Pacific region, the level of importance of having reliable, timely, and accessible data on the oceans from ocean scientists and professors, and the need for collaboration between communities, First Nations and industry to produce a strategy that considers economic, social and environmental factors.

Salmon runs in B.C. are depleting — but some have the potential to come back, report shows | National Observer
The report, released by the Salmon Coast Field station, a field research base and charity near Echo Bay, analyzed more than 150 salmon populations in the Broughton Archipelago and inlets on northeast Vancouver Island and the central coast. They assessed fish in 92 river systems for abundance and 24 for resilience. “Rebuilding plans are required for depleted populations under the new federal Fisheries Act, the report shows where we need to get going on that.” said Aaron Hill, executive director of Watershed Watch.

How global warming is affecting B.C. salmon | Watershed Watch Salmon Society
Research shows global air temperatures are trending hotter than expected in recent decades. Five of the last six years were the hottest on record. The situation gets more dire as you move closer to the north pole, as temperatures are increasing more rapidly than they are at the equator. The effect global warming has on salmon populations will be widespread, long-lasting and irreversible without urgent action.

Hundreds of fish species – including many we eat – are consuming plastic | EarthSky
Trillions of barely visible pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans. Microplastics are making their way into fish and shellfish, and potentially into humans. What are the effects of this plastic diet on fish and the animals that eat them?

Report lays bare the true costs of open net pen salmon aquaculture | ASF
The Changing Markets Foundation and Just Economics have released a new report called Dead Loss that examines the externalized costs placed on nature and the public from open net-pen salmon aquaculture in Canada, Norway, Scotland, and Chile. The numbers are staggering: 100 million salmon have escaped or died of disease since 2013 and unaccounted costs placed on the public are worth nearly $50 billion.

Washington State Pacific Salmon Future Grim
The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office has released a report on the state of salmon populations in the state’s watersheds—and the findings predict a grim future. The once prolific salmon populations in Washington State have been declining for years, and populations are now estimated to be at about 5% of historic highs.

In Search of BC Resident Killer Whales | Marine Mammal Research Unit UBC
In August 2020, nine people set sail aboard the M/V Gikumi to determine whether there are enough chinook salmon to support southern resident killer whales in the Salish Sea.  For 30 days, the team used electronic fish finders, biologging tracking devices, and drones to document the abundance and distribution of salmon – as well as the feeding behaviours of two populations of resident killer whales-one that is declining (the southern residents) and one that is increasing (the northern residents). Read the research groups diary entries.


DFO letter says City of Pitt Meadows is wrong on Kennedy Pump Station | Watershed Watch Salmon Society
The pumps at Kennedy Pump Station are aging and need to be replaced. Conservation groups have been demanding that the city replace the old fish-killing pumps with fish-friendly pumps such as those used in other places around the lower mainland. A recent letter sent from DFO says that non-fish-friendly infrastructure can violate the prohibition of harm to fish under the federal Fisheries Act. Pitt Meadows responded by doubling down on their commitment to use fish-killing pumps and declaring there are little to no native fish or salmonids in the waterway.

Massive Landslide Cools Fjord | Hakai Magazine
The landslide happened in a remote area, about 200 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia. Researchers think that melting permafrost and a retreating glacier destabilized the steep slope until it gave way on November 28, 2020. The slide pushed an estimated nine million cubic meters of debris into a lake made from the glacier’s meltwater, creating a wave that may have reached as high as 110 meters.

Shuttered Glencore B.C. mines threaten Babine Lake salmon: report | The Narwhal
New research finds lax provincial regulations allow companies to discharge toxic wastewater with metal concentrations hundreds of times higher than what’s considered safe for aquatic life.

The Environmental Threat You’ve Never Heard Of | Hakai Magazine
It’s called coastal darkening, and scientists are just beginning to explore it. As phytoplankton form the base of the ocean’s food web, this could have stark implications. Some species of zooplankton, for instance, have adapted to eat one kind of phytoplankton. Any change in phytoplankton composition could result in winners and losers throughout the ecosystem.

U.S. Coalition on 30 by 30 Initiative Grows | NPAA
So far 42 U.S. hunting, fishing and conservation organizations have taken a significant step forward for conservation by officially joining as signatories to the “Hunting and Fishing Community Statement on the 30 by 30 Initiative.” The coalition was established to ensure the interests and contributions of fishers and hunters are incorporated into policies intended to advance 30 by 30 goals.


Government of Canada and the A-Tlegay Member Nations Sign the Reconciliation Framework Agreement for Fisheries Resources | Cision News
Five First Nations have a long history of marine use and stewardship in the northern Gulf of Georgia and the Johnstone Strait region. The Framework Agreement commits the Parties to work together through a common fisheries negotiation table between the Government of Canada and the A-Tlegay Member Nations (AMN). The goal is to expand the Nations’ access to the commercial industry, including aquaculture, develop community fisheries, and create a mechanism for collaborative governance of fisheries resources.

New UBC Indigenous fisheries centre aims to uplift community rights | Salmon Arm Observer
The UBC’s Centre for Indigenous Fisheries focusses on bringing Indigenous communities in as full partners. One of the centre’s first initiatives is a multimedia project called Fish Outlaws, documenting the criminalization and dispossession of Indigenous fisheries around the Salish Sea.

Raising awareness of Indigenous water rights in B.C. | The Discourse


Navico Appoints Chief Sustainability Officer | FishingWire
Navico, parent company to the Lowrance®, Simrad Yachting, B&G® and C-MAP® brands, announced the hiring of its first-ever Chief Sustainability Officer this week as the company has made sustainability one of its core strategic pillars globally across its brands, products, operations and production.


Outboard Engine Sales Report show continued increase | NMMA
NMMA’s 2020 U.S. Recreational Boating data shows outboard engine retail sales rose for the ninth consecutive year in 2020 to a total of 330,000 units. It’s the highest annual sales volume in 20 years and up 18% from 2019.


Alberta’s Ice Fishing Photo Contest | Alberta Conservation Association
Submissions from Alberta anglers are being accepted until the end of February, 2021. Enter in one of three categories: most Excited Angler; best Fish Photo; and, atmospheric Photo. Enter by visiting the Alberta Conservation Association Facebook page or via Twitter or Instagram. Post your photo as a comment, or post a photo on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #IceFishingPhotoContest2021. Prizes include ice Fishing Prize Pack (valued at $285)and $50 gift cards.

Special Guest Feature — Extracts from the Public Fishery Alliance’s Open Letter To DFO Minister Jordan (Feb 16 2021):

Dear Minister Jordan,

For the past two years your department has prevented the Public fishery from keeping any Chinook in critically important Southern BC salt and freshwater angling areas, even when no Fraser River Chinook stocks of concern are present. Furthermore, between April 1st and July 31st, keeping abundant US hatchery Chinook has also been off limits in areas where they make up a very high percentage of the Chinook stocks present. These actions have had devastating consequences for the Public fishery. Many hard-working Canadians in the public fishing sector are now without jobs and the infrastructure that supports angling is struggling. COVID-19 has magnified these social and economic impacts.

In early 2020, the Federal Fisheries Minister’s Sport Fishing Advisory Board submitted a fishing plan that included opportunities to catch and keep abundant Chinook salmon. It was developed with DFO staff specifically to avoid wild Fraser River stocks of concern using DFO’s latest scientific data. It also offered a minimal, but sustainable, opportunity for the Public fishery during these extraordinary times. Yet, your department refused to implement the entire proposal, devastating Georgia Strait, Juan de Fuca Strait and lower Fraser River Public Fisheries. Not adopting this fishing plan defies logic, runs contrary to science-based fisheries management and to your mandate.

Specific Fraser River Chinook stocks are undeniably in trouble. The strongly supports the immediate implementation of a comprehensive recovery program. The BC angling community has been pursuing this objective with your department for fifteen years. Yet, since 2008, increased fishing restrictions including closures are the only tools the department has used. The recovery so far, is a wretched failure.

The Public Fishery Alliance recognizes Fraser Chinook recovery will take many years. We also understand recovery of these wild Chinook is attainable, as is providing sustainable fishing opportunities without detriment to stocks of concern. These dual objectives are critically important. Our sector must have some form of meaningful access to Chinook stocks that are not in trouble, in order to maintain hope for surviving these extremely difficult times. These fisheries are defensible because:

  • This fishing plan allows anglers to keep Chinook in areas where weak runs of Fraser River Chinook do not occur based on decades of DFO data.
  • Retaining identifiable hatchery Chinook and releasing wild Chinook produces a known conservation benefit. This conservation and fishery saving tool is currently in use in Washington State.
  • Hatchery Chinook account for greater than 70% of the salmon present in JDF in April and May and it has been identified as a viable fishery candidate.
  • Wherever the 2019 & 2020 Chinook Public fishery restriction applied, no coded wire tags were turned in, significantly compromising data recovery programs. Allowing anglers to keep hatchery Chinook will result in the recovery of coded wire tags for critical scientific assessment.

Continuing your department’s heavy handed and overly broad Chinook regulation for a third year will systematically dismantle the Public salmon fishery. The PFA strongly recommends your department allow anglers to keep Chinook as described. Failure to do so reinforces the common view that science-based fisheries management and your mandate letter from Prime Minister Trudeau are not guiding your actions. Canadians deserve to know how your department operates and where it stands with respect to their interests, especially as a general election seems close at hand.

Yours truly,

“Public Fishery Alliance – Board of Directors”

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