Sunday, 7 October 2018

Let’s Take a Global Look at the SRKW Problem

Update Nov 10, 2018. The Pacific Salmon Foundation has done an hour long video on the killer whale/chinook/noise/fishing issues that is worth viewing. See:

Here is a summary: Overall the speakers say that the scientific facts do not support the public discussion and newspaper/press articles. Sport fishing is dealt with at minute 19, and says that time and area closures are the answer, not a blanket closure. The inside water catch rate is far lower than it used to be in terms of % of runs taken. The two Fraser stocks of most influence are the Harrison and Thompson rivers and their numbers have declined. It is a big problem that chinook are coming back smaller than they used to be. Moving to the SRKW program by the feds, at minute 30, of $61M, only $3M is allocated to research, and it is a competition so only a few programs get funding when much more money should be spent on science. The SRKW are here only 2.5 months per year, and roam from southern California. Apparently, noise is not really a problem. Putting more ferry runs on weekends/holidays increases noise more than tankers. New ocean-going vessels are far better at being silent than older boats. AS for killer whale numbers, which is dealt with right at the beginning, the stats show that the population has increased and decreased four times since 1960, one trough was only 66 animals, with the highest peak only 98 animals. That being the case, what is the legitimate number of animals that the species needs?

Now, the original post on this issue:

You will recall that I did an article on the SRKW problem. I pointed out that the problem has resulted from DFO, in Ottawa, managing killer whales and wild Pacific salmon into extinction for forty years. Look at the photo in that article to see one chinook catch from the 1960s when there were healthy chinook populations in many rivers: This post has been viewed more than 10,000 times.

I made the point that you can’t save extinction levels of SRKW with extinction levels of Fraser chinook, chiefly those 4-2s and 5-2s. The answer is a dozen netpens, each of 2 million sterilized chinook, around the south coast every year for at least a decade, and money put into freshwater habitat restoration/epigenetic enhancement.

What is DFO doing? Well, it is not doing what is required to give the SRKW a better chance – putting more salmon in the water – and it is not doing much habitat restoration. It is tamping down on sport fishing and trying to feed extinction level SRKW without putting more chinook in the ocean, and the most likely result is that both salmon and SRKW will move to extinction.

You see, DFO, ignoring any other approach, is now requesting sport fishers, guides and so on to offer up more areas of critical habitat for the SRKW to feed. It has increased the current zones it has established by adding Swiftsure Bank and La Perouse Bank and giving us only the option of responding to that suggestion, by Nov 3, 2018. 

The Sport Fishing Institute has done a good post on where we are today, with a new site dedicated to the issue: Go look at it as, just as my article did, it cuts to the chase and is a good summary, with the stats. Note that it includes a cull to seals/sea lions, as my article did, and for the same reason: they eat almost half of all coho and chinook smolts in the ocean, particularly Georgia Strait, and their numbers have more than doubled over the years.

Here is the DFO page to see what they have to say:

On the issue of critical habitat, let me give you the SFI’s paragraph:

“A technical workshop held in Vancouver last year was well attended by both whale and salmon biologists and managers from OR, WA, AK and BC. The SFI's Martin Paish attended as a representative of the SFAB, SFI and the sport fishing community. The consensus reached at that workshop was that large-scale closures implemented to increase the overall abundance of chinook would NOT be an effective strategy to provide more prey to SRKW’s. Again, DFO needs to listen to its experts and not to strategically manipulated public opinion. Find details and findings of the workshop here and on the SFI website:

The SFI says this is where we are now, and asks you to send a note to DFO, as above: 

“Our “consultation” experience for SRKW’s in 2018 created great mistrust between DFO and the fishing community. The DFO Minister of the day chose to bow to political pressure in the form of a threatened lawsuit rather than listen to the advice offered by his own Pacific Region staff and the carefully and thoughtfully gathered community recommendations that incorporated the best available science of the day. This was both demoralizing to staff, insulting to those who took the time to participate in consultation, and downright irresponsible in its purely political rather than scientific justification. The result was a ridiculous farce that permits industrial scale commercial fisheries for the same species in the same areas while low impact recreational fisheries are prohibited. We know that regional staff and the local fishing community are both insulted and demoralized by the outcome, and we are fearful that a similar approach may be taken this time.”

Now, let me take this in another direction: there are more issues out there with DFO that need to be mentioned. I read all sorts of DFO material and have noticed that the many areas don’t have much connection with one another.

On the one hand, we have the Sport Fish Advisory Board, The Pacific Salmon Commission and The Pacific Halibut Commission concerned with: what poundage of fish is out there and how do we divide them among stakeholders.

In addition, loads of money is spent on putting out two fishing management plans, one for northern BC and one for southern BC. These are known as the Integrated Fisheries Management Plans. At 500 pages each, they represent huge expenditure, but only have tangential connection with the various fisheries. I say this, knowing some of the arguments between the SFAB and DFO on stock abundance, and number of fish/species retained. We seldom talk about the IFMPs. Why waste this huge amount of money? Let’s put it into freshwater habitat restoration and epigenetic enhancement.

To take this in another direction, one would think that DFO would have province wide stocks and numbers of all species. But I didn’t find this when looking for it. I found that there are a half dozen documents that looked at parts of the province, but that DFO had not brought them together to have a big picture number of salmon and species and areas of the province. 

So, I spent more than a full week with the various documents, sorted out double-counting, made do with data with holes in it, with methodological problems, with floods in one year requiring helicopter counts, but next year it was on foot, and so on. Trying to come out with a fair estimate, I made assumptions here and there, plugged the holes and felt that before all fisheries that BC has 73 million salmon in the ocean in an average year. Escapement would be about half, or 38 million. Here is a post that gives you the DFO documents I used. See item B toward the bottom: You will note that BC salmon are 99.8% of all salmon in Canada. So where is the cash for their problems?

Let me take this another direction: DFO’s take on Fraser River sockeye subcomponents is filled with wizardry, with gill net and seine net in ocean, in river, and real time DNA testing. The panel reports twice each week for close to five months of the year. A huge amount of money is spent to do this, while wild salmon are declining toward extinction levels in many areas of the province. Why isn’t this money used to put real fish in the water, rather than document their decline?

Let me take this in another direction: the SFI points out that eliminating sport fisheries that take less than commercial fisheries, and are second in line with aboriginal fisheries, will have a large negative effect on towns and businesses on the coast, without positive SRKW result. For the Pacific Salmon Foundation, I put together the take from sport in BC. Including freshwater fisheries, the sport contribution to our economy is $2.52 billion. Here is how I calculated the figure:  

The PSF did a study on Georgia Strait and found that the increased revenue from sport for coho and chinook, once brought back, is $200- $400-million in addition to the figure I calculated, or, being conservative, a total of $2.72 B. (Note that the Freshwater Fisheries Society did its own study of freshwater sport take of $937 million. I added this amount to the over all figure I calculated, so if your interest is simply saltwater sport fishing revenue, take their figure out of my $2.52B).

Whichever way you slice it, eliminating the sport fishery will have a real impact on those 13,000 jobs in the industry, from the BC Stats Report on the fishing sectors, 2012, See the bottom of this post for the BC Stats table:

Let me take this yet another direction. The laws to do with salmon and fish in Canada/BC have been weakened in many ways over many years. They need to be brought back. See: Laws and Policies to do with Pacific Salmon:

And yet another direction: once you have decent laws, then they need to be enforced. Randy Nelson’s book Poachers, Polluters and Politics points out the moribund nature of Conservation and Protection under DFO. He was director of the branch for years, and it was underfunded and understaffed. So, enforcement needs to be dramatically improved, too. See: Read this book for some of the really difficult cases he was on, and DFO’s lack of enforcement presence.

And for another direction: did you know that the BC enhancement budget is put into C&P, where it shouldn’t be? That means that it has been used as a bargaining chip when C&P budgets are haggled over every year before budget time, in Ottawa, and has resulted in BC enhancement budgets being far too low. DFO this is fake news, er, an illegitimate place to put BC enhancement in the over all scheme of DFO budgets. My recollection is that DFO’s budget is about $1.5 billion, and the max $25 million in enhancement is 1.7% of that budget. Surely, we can do better for bringing back 99.8% of all the salmon in Canada.

And yet another direction: The SFI alludes to the environmental organizations gathering up and demanding the end of sport fishing to save the SRKW, along with launching a lawsuit. I sent a long note on the issue of laws to the ED of the Georgia Strait Alliance:

I said that the GSA should start a netpen for chinook. The ED sent back that they didn’t know how to do a netpen. As this is not rocket science, I just shook my head, and also realized that the environmental organizations had little experience with the huge decline in wild salmon over the years and DFO’s intransigence on bringing them back. If they did, they would realize that stopping all sport fishing will not save the SRKW. The answer is putting more fish in the sea and eating seal flippers for dinner a few times. And looking at one another as allies, not enemies.

And in yet another direction: you will recall I pointed out that DFO specifically intended to ruin the research of Dr. John Volpe on the spread of Atlantic salmon into Vancouver Island rivers. After agreeing to give him some Atlantic fry, DFO pulled out of his study two days before he was to start. That’s because DFO is behind farmed salmon more than it is behind wild Pacific salmon. While this is disappointing, you should know that Volpe went on to do his research, while DFO refused to publish an Atlantic coast paper on Atlantic penetration of wild Atlantic stocks and an insider had to leak the paper out. 

The bottom line on Volpe’s work is that of the 40 rivers he swam in search of Atlantic fry and adults, he found them in 97% of the rivers he looked at, nothing short of shocking. Here is one link to get you into that subject:  

DFO still maintains, er, fibs that Atlantics can’t exist outside of netpens, feed, go up rivers, spawn, have viable progeny and so on. Hmm.

I could go on, but I think I have made the point that there are a whole lot of other big issues that are not being considered at the same time as DFO is only looking for input on two areas of habitat it wants to hive off from the sport fishery, Swiftsure and La Perouse. 

How does one deal with this? I think the solution is to back MLA, Adam Olsen’s Wild Salmon Secretariat of the BC government, and foster habitat restoration by funding the Pacific Salmon Foundation that leverages money 4 to 7 times. And school kids and sport fishers do most of the work, something the ENGOs don’t seem to get. If the sport fishery is curtailed, no one is going to get out and help with freshwater habitat restoration and netpens. And most sport anglers will sell their boats, which in an average year cost about $10,000 to maintain, moored in saltwater. With up to 300,000 licenced anglers each year, that adds up to big dollars pretty darn quickly.

Let me end with something in last week’s article. The comments Jim Gilbert made decades ago about DFO. The rest is at:

“Jim has long been a critic of the top brass in the federal fisheries department. He feels DFO has no flexibility on internal creative thinking to respond to a crisis. Jim has a lot of respect for the many hard-working biologists but says lack of leadership is the problem. Nobody is putting all the knowledge together to come up with a long-range viable plan. Most of the money is spent on a bureaucracy in Ottawa and little filters down to the people in the field who do the most important work.”



Update, Oct 15, 2018: DFO Can't Track Salmon - letter to Carmel Lowe from BC DFO staff, not enough $$ to track salmon:

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