Sport Fish Advisory Board April 2016
In the past couple of weeks I have attended both the South Coast and Main Board meetings of the SFAB.
Note : This should be the best west coast Chinook fishing in recent years. The Columbia is expecting 1.1 million and combined with good ocean conditions, a great year of fishing is expected off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
* The ocean conditions of 2014, 2015 were not good so the next two years are not expected to be as good as this years.
Hatchery staff have noticed that returning Chinook females are smaller. It is suspected that this is occurring because Alaska fisheries are selectively keeping the larger females. This means that hatcheries need to be capturing more females to get the same number of eggs.
Hatcheries are facing a shortfall of $500,000 for staff wages. Many are looking at installing turbines on their inlet systems. This could generate $150-400,00 per year for some hatcheries.
Robertson Creek hatchery (Port Alberni) releases 6 million smolts per year. 20% of the returning adults are caught in Alaska – makes up for the Columbia fish we catch off the west coast of Van.Isl.
FN’s are concerned about not getting enough fish to meet their Food and Social Ceremonial needs in 2016 given the expected low returns of sockeye to the Fraser system. Thus, they have requested the DFO not allow any salmon to be harvested along the south coast of Vancouver Island and lower Georgia Strait, as well as in the entire Fraser system until Aug 1.
Historically DFO had a ‘slot size’ opening around lower Vancouver Island and opened the Fraser to fishing when the test fishery at Albion indicated that the run size would be larger than 45,000. This decision was made about June 15 which allowed some Fraser and Thompson recreational fishing
If DFO accepts FN’s request, we would lose the Bridge River, Clearwater River fisheries as well as the Jack Chinook fishery in the lower Thompson.
As recreational fishers have priority over commercial in catching Chinook,so it would also mean the closure of the area G and F fisheries. (Commercial fishers have priority access to sockeye, pink, and coho.
Fish Transport and Packaging
- DFO has hired a contractor to look at what other jurisdictions are doing
- Ottawa is expecting a recommendation but until then it is you may only transport (yours or someone else’s) 2 day limit of fish
Ooligan – big return to Skeena this year and northern people would like to harvest some of the surplus.
Rockfish Conservation Areas (RC’s)
These were areas that were set aside to protect and act as key recovery areas for rockfish. There is supposed to be no recreational or commercial fishing in these areas.
However, two university graduate students have been looking at how well these fishing prohibitions have been working.
“There has been very low compliance” thought to be due to lack of enforcement and lack of knowledge about site locations and rules.
Rebecca Reid is the new Director General for the west coast
Angela Bates is the new Area Director for the Lower Fraser and Interior which have been amalgamated and will be headquartered in New Westminster. Her history was as the former Director of Policy.
Local ministry staff will stay in Kamloops but senior staff will be on the coast. It means that at times decisions will be made by people with no local knowledge
Berried Prawns – females carrying very obvious egg clusters
There is a proposal to have recreational fishers release berried prawns. They will survive and the eggs will live.
Crabs – The current catch is 200 tons and DFO wants to get this down to 100 tons. Consider that FN’s get 16 tons for FSC and Science gets 10 tons. It limits recreation and commercial to 74 tons.
Halibut – Limits the same as last year 1-1 (2 in possession and yearly limit of 6)
- size of the smaller fish dropped from 90 cm to 83 cm
The new electronic creel found areas where halibut were being caught but that had never been creeled before and this increased the recreational catch by 10%. The 2016 allocation was slightly higher than 2015 but this 10% increase uses up the allocation increase.
Tuna – This fishery is getting more and more popular . At times there are said to be 200 boats fishing Tuna along the coast on good weather days.
- a SFAB Tuna Committee has worked with local guides, DFO and Federal Dept of Transport to develop – boat safety guidelines
- tuna handling and transport guidelines
More FN’s Info
2015 saw the best Chinook fishing around Campbell River in many years.
Due to the expected small sockeye run in 2016, FN’s have asked to net the famous “Tyee Pool”. This is a relatively small area where the world famous “tyee Club” fishes from rowed boats in order to catch a Tyee and be eligible for club membership. The club boasts movie stars and world leaders so we are talking a very high profile piece of water.
DFO put 40,000 radio tags in smolts leaving Big Qualicum Hatchery. They also put radio receivers on 20 seals in or near the mouth of the river.
- 6.3 % of the tagged smolts were eaten by the radio equipped seals – keep in mind that many of the problem seals were not radio equipped
- if you extrapolate to the thousands of seals out there and we know they key onto streams at the time of the smolt out migration, then you can extrapolate the number of smolts eaten by seals –THIS WAS NOT THE CASE WHEN SEALS WERE NOT PROTECTED AND THEIR NUMBERS WERE MUCH LOWER.
- DFO has committed to meeting with the province to discuss commercial fisher interception
- Apparently the BC Gov’t has met with lower Fraser FN’s and commercial chum fishers to discuss steelhead interception.
- The province’s position is – 850 steelhead spawners needed to sustain a catch and release sport fishery and _ 450 needed for the run to stabilize and regenerate itself
Steelhead Society of BC
- have entered into partnership with BCIT to do habitat work
- they will start with work on the Squamish River above the Cheakamus
- currently most steelhead spawn in Shovelnose Creek as the mainstream Squamish has been downgraded by scouring.
- Fred Helmer Sportshop in Chilliwack has closed. It is thought that the closure is the result of decreased recreational angling opportunities on the Fraser River. Historically he had up to 28 employees but in 2015 was down to 8. Recreational fishing in the fraser has been calculated to add $100 million to the economy and closure of part of this fishery will have a big impact on the local economy
Family Fishing Weekend – financing has been cut back as HCTF has cut their funding
South Thompson Chinook
The last year’s run was a record at 177,000 from a brood year of 141,000. This yar’s run is expected to be quite low as it is coming off a 2012 brood year of 53,000
Minke Whales – while there seem to be quite a few around Vancouver Island, people studying them say it is the same 6 who move around a lot.
Humpback Whales – these whales are as big as a school bus
-when eating, they take in 20,000litres in each gulp
- are the only whales that will stand and fight Killer whales
- their long pectoral fins have very large barnacles and they use them to fight Killer whales
- population 2000-3000 around Vancouver Island
- have no echo location so often surface in front of boats
- migrate annually 16 000km to either Mexico or Hawaii to give birth (it is thought this is to avoid Killer whale predation on their young)