Northern Fisheries Committees | Update

Northern Inland Fishery Committee  

In 2022, the BCWF Northern Inland Fishery Committee continues to advocate for a rebuilding plan for steelhead using an enhancement and abundance-based model that includes sustenance harvest. The committee is also advocating for the steelhead hatchery in Kitimat, so the retention fishery can return. 

There were closures in the Skeena and Nass water systems in 2021 with more closures likely in 2022; this committee continues to advocate for science-based timing of water system closures for conservation. The most critical issue for inland fisheries in the north in 2021 was not closing the Skeena system at a crucial time for steelhead conservation because of guiding pressure. 

The committee is working on getting back the trout char retention fishery. A 2021 report, commissioned by Watershed Watch Salmon Society and Skeena Wild Conservation Trust, included an analysis of the B.C. salmon species caught in the Alaskan fisheries. The exorbitant number of caught fish, which would normally return to Canadian interior waters to spawn, is of serious concern, especially given the endangered status of several of the species. This report is the scientific analysis of a situation widely talked about in the north for years.  

Yours in conservation, 

David Lewis, Chair BCWF Northern Inland Fishery Committee  

Tidal Water North Fishery Committee 2021 In Review 

Apart from Halibut and Lingcod, 2021 saw the continued erosion of most fishing opportunity on the North Coast. Chinook returns to the Skeena River system continue to be poor even with drastic reductions in angling. Rockfish daily and possession limits continue to be extremely low. Lower Skeena Coho and chum salmon stocks saw poor returns and Coho salmon fishing would have been poor if the Department of Fisheries (DFO) had not cancelled the directed Area F Coho troll fishery. In 2022, the Tidal Waters Committee is continuing to advocate for the DFO to conduct proper stock assessment on rockfish, particularly Yelloweye. 

Alaskan fisheries continue to harvest a disproportionate number of Canada-bound salmonoids. According to Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaskan commercial fishery harvested 2.7 million Coho salmon in 2021, many of which would have been bound for streams on the west coast of British Columbia. Compare this to the Area F troll fishery, which caught a mere 67,000 Coho salmon, all as by-catch in Chinook and pink salmon fisheries. The Pacific Salmon Treaty is failing Canadians.  

In 2022 Tidal Waters Committee has plans to encourage the BCWF board of directors to set up an emergency meeting with the Minister of Fisheries to lobby for a high-level review of the Pacific Salmon Treaty, based on the aggressive salmon fishery that Alaska conducted in 2021. Any efforts for domestic salmonoid stock rebuilding will fail if Alaska continues with such aggressive salmon fisheries. 

Ottawa introduced a 647-million-dollar Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI). While some of the initiative is supportable and some consultation is emerging, one of the pillars of this initiative is Harvest Transformation, with a goal of implementing extensive closures to commercial salmon fisheries. This demonstrates a move away from science-based conservation and an unwillingness to deal with pinnipeds. The Washington Department of Fish and Game lethally removes both California and Steller sea lions on the Columbia River as a part of their salmon management program. 

Steelhead returns to the Skeena in 2021 were extremely poor even in the complete absence of any commercial net fisheries in the approach waters of the Skeena River. With harvestable numbers of Babine sockeye salmon expected to return to the Skeena in 2022 it begs the question: How will DFO conduct net fisheries for sockeye salmon and still achieve their conservation objectives for Chinook and steelhead? Of further concern, why would DFO fully load the spawning channels on the Pinkut and Fulton Rivers with sockeye salmon in 2021? We now risk a massive return of enhanced sockeye salmon in 2024/2025, resulting in gillnet and seine fisheries on the approach waters of the Skeena River and significant mortalities of non-target species. 

The Tidal Water Fisheries Committee encourages BCWF members and the angling community at large to contact their perspective MPs and MLAs — to call for a high-level review of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. 

Yours in conservation, 

Ken Franzen, Chair BCWF Tidal Water North Fishery Committee 

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