Monday, 26 November 2018

Southern Resident Killer Whales – Sport Fishers and ENGOs, Updated Dec 15, 2018

Responding to the Nov 19, 2018 TC article: Orcas are on the precipice, by Misty MacDuffee and Chris Genovali

Having read the text put out by environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) for some time, the impression I get is they are not fully plugged into historical and current salmon numbers and issues. My experience on the sport side is that sport fishermen are more informed of the long-term issues because of on-going involvement with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). I refer to bodies such as the Sport Fish Advisory Board, Sport Fishing Institute, Pacific Halibut Commission, Pacific Salmon Commission, the Salish Sea science project, in part from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and so on. 

Recent science on killer whales (SRKW), chinook numbers and other science issues is relayed in an informative talk by scientist Dr. Andrew Trites, and Dr. Brian Riddell of the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF). See the video:

Their take is that the problem as presented in the press is not accurate: noise isn’t that much of a problem, and new vessels are much quieter than old ones; there are 600,000 chinook returning in these waters and spot and time closures for fishing are the answer, not total closures, particularly windows for Harrison and Thompson chinook. Also, killer whale numbers have peaked and troughed four times since the 1960s. The low has been 66 animals and the high, 98. What then is the number to shoot for in terms of abundance? 100?

Surprisingly, the speakers point out that the SRKW are in our waters only 2.5 months of the year. The jurisdictions where they are resident 80% of the year need to step up, with ENGO input, to put more chinook in the sea.

In my opinion, the big four big issues facing salmon, and thus killer whales, are: freshwater habitat restoration, DFO, fish farms and climate change. Sport fishers have the ear of DFO, but we have seen them do little for more than four decades. See:

We need ENGOS to join us in telling the feds to get fish farms out of the water, and to engage in the province’s Wild Salmon Secretariat program; I have argued, the most important thing to do is for BC to fund freshwater habitat restoration by giving money to the PSF that leverages restoration funds 4 to 7 times. We can have a made in BC solution, and not have to depend on the feds, chiefly DFO, anymore.

The suggestion of curtailing sport fishing 100%, is not only unnecessary, but it has many large negative consequences that I don’t think ENGOs have thought through. Just so they know: it is largely sport fishermen, along with school children in some areas, that do freshwater habitat restoration – the most important thing – and maintain small satellite fish plants. If we can’t fish, no one will do the habitat work. We need help.

Furthermore, the sport fishery, in saltwater and freshwater, brings in $2.52 billion dollars revenue annually. Curtail the fishery, and the most important voice for wild salmon is silenced. In addition, many will sell their boats and stop fishing. To keep a boat moored and operating in saltwater is about $10,000 per year. Who will do that if they can’t fish? That $2.52B will take a big hit. I already know one guide at Oak Bay Marina who is selling his boat. This is happening right now, and that revenue supports many small coastal community businesses that will go bankrupt, some 8,400 jobs – five times as many as in fish farms.

Sport fishermen are the voice for salmon, engaged 12 months of the year, for the past four decades. If they are cut off from fishing, this voice is lost. What we need is for ENGOs to join forces with us and push for change.

Moving now to solutions: we need 10 years of 12 netpens of 2 million sterilized chinook fry each to pump some chinook back into the water as quickly as we can – Nitinat, Cowichan and Robertson Creek stock. Triploiding renders them sterile and thus they do not cause genetic problems on spawning beds. They don’t even go into rivers as netpen fish return to the site of the netpen where they can be retrieved from the water and donated to First Nations. Remember, if we dither, it is those years plus four years to adults.

I suggested to the Georgia Strait Alliance that they operate a netpen for the three weeks it takes to feed fry before sending them off. I was told they did not know how. I shook my head and moved on.

As for hatcheries, the science of epigenetics which means the genetic material that gets turned on or off depending on the environment can be used to create wild/hatchery fish by out-planting into lakes, enhanced environments, with hiding spots and natural feed such as stoneflies, smaller or larger fry, or earlier or later release. Check out the programs at the Nitinat Hatchery west of Cowichan Lake.

The video also points out that we need a seal/sea lion cull because they have doubled over historic levels and are now responsible for eating chinook and coho fry in numbers of 40 to 47% respectively. That means half the fish we and nature release are currently killed before becoming adults for killer whales.

The reality is that we have seen DFO manage salmon into extinction for the past 40 years, and without the ongoing voice of fishers, salmon numbers will spiral to nothing. We need ENGOs on our side. Please think of sport fishers as allies not enemies. 

Finally, I contribute to a dozen ENGOs, so my heart and my cash is in the environment.

A few relevant posts:

4.     The BC Stats Table of jobs/revenue is in this post:

And, a few more:

1.  Basic information on Killer Whales: You will find more links at the bottom of the article.
2. On ship noise: This contrasts with the Trites/Riddell video above.
3. A graph that points out that chinook catches in the Fraser have declined over the years:
4. Human impacts on orcas and salmon: This one has generic text, some of which contradicts the story above, but I find it less persuasive.
5. Here is an article on what is happening in Washington State with respect to SRKWs and chinook salmon:

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