The Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB) South Coast Meeting in December featured an action-packed agenda covering a significant number of important issues. While there is far too much detail to try to unpack in a quick article—41 motions passed, two were defeated, and eight were referred to working groups—we’ll try to summarize the highlights. Here’s a summary of the most important points.
2018 Post-Season Review
Wilf Ludke, Senior Chinook Stock Assessment Biologist with DFO, provided a summary of the fishery performance. He noted very poor returns for Chinook on the Fraser River, with particular concern for upper Fraser stocks, which are performing poorly. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has listed 12 stocks as threatened.
Five Nations Court Decision
DFO provided an update on next steps in the court decision between five Nuu-chah-nuth nations and DFO over a claim of constitutional rights to catch and sell fish commercially. DFO will be seeking input from First Nations and other stakeholders on an appropriate process to resolve the issues through a review of the salmon allocation policy. Following the latest court case in November, the court ordered DFO to complete three objectives by March 31, 2019:
- DFO to provide fishing plan to address species infringement by Nov. 30 (Done – covers salmon, groundfish, crab, and prawn). DFO must engage with the five nations before discussing the draft plan in more detail with others.
- Consult on the plan between December and February with First Nations and others.
- Provide a final fishing plan by March 31 for implementation April 1, 2019.
The five nations are appealing the latest court ruling.
2019 Fishery Planning
The newly negotiated Pacific Salmon Treaty with the U.S. requires Canada to reduce Chinook exploitation by 5% to 12.5%.
- Sockeye: Below average returns expected for many Fraser sockeye CU’s (Conservation Units).
- Chinook: Low returns expected for the Fraser stocks; COSEWIC expected to report on its Fraser Chinook assessments shortly.
- Coho: Too early for Interior Coho assessments, but preliminary indications are fairly good.
- Pinks: Big year for Fraser pinks (but low brood year).
- Chum: Uncertainty – poorer returns for northern stocks.
SARA listing: Thompson & Chilcotin Steelhead
- Implications of Endangered Species at Risk Act (SARA) listing (vs COSEWIC assessment) include automatic general prohibitions (which come into place immediately) and attendant permitting requirements, recovery strategy (within one year), action plan, and identification/protection of critical habitat.
- Management scenarios: these outline expected measures to mitigate human threats in the event of listing or not:
- Three scenarios: Baseline, Do Not List (IFMP/non-SARA-based measures) or List (SARA- based requirements).
- Do Not List or List measures described in these scenarios could change in future based on new information.
- Measures for federally-managed commercial salmon fisheries under three scenarios
- Measures for First Nations FSC and treaty fisheries. There could be additional potential measures to protect kelts that migrate back out in the spring.
- Other components of the DFO information package that goes to all Cabinet ministers include information on cultural significance, cost-benefit analysis (in progress) and consultation reports.
- Consultations: Opportunities to provide input by Dec 2.
- Next steps in the process. Information for a decision by Spring 2019 or later. Regardless of the outcome, a regular assessment is scheduled for fall 2019.
DFO Update: Rockfish Conservation Areas (RCAs)
- Risk analysis underway to evaluate human activities (qualitative). SFAB reps attending December 2018 workshop. • Phase 1 of engagement focused on Northern Shelf Bioregion. (Marine area protection targets dead- line is 2020).
- Potential management outcomes: Potential boundary adjustments, with possibly two types of RCAs, increased recognition of First Nations rights and more collaborative management.
Glass Sponge Reefs
- Background was provided on the importance of these reefs, their unique nature and important ecological role.
- Conservation initiative; Nine reefs initially identified, followed by subsequent surveys to complete identification of reefs in SOG.
- Maps of important recreational fishing areas in Howe Sound have been identified.
- Measures to identify high- and low-risk fishery activities, with concern regarding prawn and crab trap disturbance on reefs. Additionally, concern over bottom contact with downrigger cannon balls and potential measures to restrict their use in certain areas.
- Proposed mitigation measures: protection from bottom fishing activities; risks posed by salmon fishing gear hitting shallower reefs in Howe Sound.
- SFAB Halibut Committee is negotiating a provision for 10% over/under carryover of the year’s quota for the following year, similar to the commercial fishery. For 2018, there was an 80,000 pound underage that SFAB is requesting be added to the 2019 recreational allocation. The committee’s recommended management approach has been precautionary, given reduced harvest allocations, to avoid the risk of in-season recreational fishing closures, which was identified as a top priority. Actual catch on average for the past 6 years has represented 92-93% of TAC. The Halibut Committee has also sought local feedback on management options and priorities for 2019 management. It will be important to have good data from sources like the iARC (national internet survey sample sent to 8,000 licence holders) on the expected impact of different measures. No increase in recreational halibut TAC (Total Allowable Catch) is expected for 2019.
SC SFAB Elections
Mike Kelly elected as SC Chair and George Bates as Vice Chair, then a round of applause commending Jon Pew for his contribution as outgoing SC chair. Additional South Coast Representatives to the SFAB Main Board election results are:
Bob Gallaugher; Pat Ahern; Ryan Chamberland; Sandy MacDonald; Jon Pew; Josh Temple; Deryk Krefting; Dan Pollard; Jean Rowe.
Minutes of the Dec 2018 SC SFAB Meeting can be downloaded here.
If you would like to get involved in their local SFAC, I will put you in touch with the SFAC Chairperson for your area. Contact me: pat.ahern (at) shaw.ca
-Pat Ahern is the President of the West Coast Fishing Guide Association and Owner/Operator of Last Cast Guiding.