Vancouver’s Peter Krahn is a retired senior Environment Canada enforcement engineer, owner of Genesis Environmental Sciences, passionate Fraser River salmon and sturgeon angler, and dedicated conservationist.
He is also a man on a mission to develop selective fishing technology that could ultimately render in-river gillnets obsolete, while accelerating the conservation and restoration of at risk fish species. Gillnetting concerns have been raised for decades. Critics point to excessive mortalities of non-targeted salmon, steelhead and other fishes during legal and, unfortunately, illegal gillnet fisheries and lost ghost nets.
What is a Ghost Net?
Ghost nets are lost or abandoned nets that continue to kill fish that encounter them. This is something of which the public is generally unaware.
Using Traps & Weirs
Traps and weirs were used by west coast First Nations for millennia. In this respect, Peter’s work brings traditional harvest practices full circle by incorporating them into a stable fishing platform, which can be set up, broken down, and redeployed quickly.
How The River Trap Works
The platform is anchored in a fixed position. Then wings or leads are deployed and secured by rods driven into the river bed. The wings guide the fish into the trap where salmon that are targeted for capture are removed. The remaining fish swim out when the release gate is opened, usually without any unnecessary handling.
Aside from its selective fishing attributes the trap can be used for other important tasks including:
- Salmon stock assessment
- Smolt migration assessment
- Invasive species removal
- Brood stock capture
- DNA sampling
- Oil spill response
- Advancing trap technology also compliments development of mark selective fisheries, which adds impetus to the belief that Canada should mark as many hatchery produced salmon as possible.
On October 18, 2022 his work reached a milestone when he handed the keys to his newest 18×10 ft model to two groups in Fort St. James.
The platform keys were received by Peter Erickson, Nak’adzli First Nation Fisheries Manager and Jaclyn Boyes, a School District 91/Fort St. James Secondary School geo-science teacher. The school district provided seed money to get the selective fishing platform built. A board of directors was just appointed to apply for funding from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund for a three year project to restore endangered Stuart Lake sockeye. These sockeye, “have been designated as a United Nations priority species requiring the capture and cryogenic freezing of eggs, sperm, and DNA to protect against catastrophic loss of the species”, according to Krahn.
The school district will use this as a science project and learning hub for surrounding communities, hopefully inspiring youth to pursue careers in salmon recovery and research. The Nak’adzli Nation will manage the multi-year project activities and test the selective fishing system.
Alex Bussman owns Oscar’s Fly & Tackle in Smithers. He depends on salmon and steelhead for his livelihood. “Seeing this new tool in action in the North is good news for all concerned about wild fish stocks” said Bussman.
Rick Perkins, Nova Scotia Conservative MP for South Shore-St. Margaret’s, and Shadow Minister of Fisheries at the time, was part of an August fact finding delegation to learn about marine and Fraser River recreational fisheries issues. Peter’s trap technology was on that agenda. Perkins provided his impression of the River Trap for Island Fisherman magazine. “Effort to provide an alternative to gillnets is essential for the recovery of several species on the Fraser and other rivers. I was impressed with the River Trap system” adding “it is a creative alternative for selectively fishing that will enhance the protection of our wild salmon and steelhead stocks”.