President Chris Bos and the board of directors of South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition (SVIAC) are ecstatic that the first major phase of our Sooke Chinook Enhancement project is now a reality. After two years of planning, gaining community support, seeking the necessary approval, fundraising and organizing this important project, the first tangible signs of progress are unmistakeable. Our 220,000 Chinook smolts are in their new temporary home in the Sooke Basin and are healthy and doing well. The SVIAC “Feed the Endangered Orca” initiative has formally started with its first out-planting. The long-term purpose of our project is to start dramatically increasing adult Chinook salmon abundance in Juan de Fuca Strait.
A huge shout-out must go to all those involved in making our project come to fruition. From the many extremely generous sponsors right through to the dozens of volunteers, all should be recognized for their support. Thanks also to the T’Sou-ke First Nations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Sooke community at large. The success of this broad-based community project will not only benefit our endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), but provide improved traditional and public fishing and eco-tourism opportunities too.
Using Chinook raised to smolt stage at DFO’s Nitnat Production Hatchery, the juvenile salmon are being temporarily out-planted to increase their survival. Our specially built 50 foot x 50 foot temporary holding pen is now moored at the docks of the Sooke Harbour Resort and Marina, where the fish are currently located. So far, the pen is holding 220,000 lively Chinook smolts that have started their acclimatization and feeding phase. In two to three weeks’ time, those little fish will be released to continue their life in the open ocean as normal wild salmon. The purpose of using a temporary holding pen is to give these juvenile salmon an early helping hand, making them larger at age, more robust and hence better equipped to survive in the ocean phase of their lives. In three to four years’ time as large adults, they will return to the Strait of Juan de Fuca so as to provide the endangered SRKW with the preferred food they need during the key pre-winter feeding period.
The quantity of Chinook smolts raised in our temporary holding pens will increase each year to a three year annual target of one million. Under normal ocean survival conditions out-planting one million Chinook smolts should result in 15,000 to 40,000 additionally adult Chinook returning to Juan de Fuca annually in mid-July, August and early September.
If you wish to support our worthy project and assist us now or in the future, you can make a donation at the SVIAC official donation page here or participate in the Kiss My Chinook Fishing Event, whose proceeds go to the Sooke Chinook Enhancement project.
After five years of managing Fraser Stream-Type Chinook under a three zone regimen in Fisheries Areas 19 and 20 (Sidney, Victoria and Sooke), DFO are in the process undertaking a management review. Essentially, this is a good development as it will define whether or not the existing regimen has worked, but will also be fraught with potential challenges for the fishing community, especially Chinook anglers in Southern BC.
In 2012 a new management system for Fraser Chinook was introduced that restricted Chinook fishing for First Nations, commercial and the public based on the forecast abundance of the returning adult Fraser Chinook. The slow but steady decline in abundance of several of these Fraser Chinook that live for more than one year in freshwater before going to the ocean was the basis for DFO to institute these regulations. Since 2008 the public recreational fishery around South Vancouver Island has been severly racheted back with measures that limit retaining wild spawning-sized Chinook from March 1st to mid-June each year. In 2012 the most restrictive measures were implemented that curbed fishing opportunity from March 1st and extended those measures right through until mid-July each year. As Chinook are the key sport fish around the south of Vancouver Island it is vital SVIAC is at the review table to ensure our interests are well represented. Along with several very capable members of the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, it is anticipated that SVIAC’s president will be part of the review process.
At this stage the department has distributed a draft Terms of Reference for the review process and will be undertaking the review over the next six to eight months. The SFAB has recommended the process should not be rushed and 2017 should be managed as status quo from 2016. First Nations, environmentalists and the commercial sectors are all being asked to participate. The essence of the review is to verify whether or not the existing three zone approach is achieving its conservation goals while allowing fisheries to continue at a reduced rate. The review will focus on two components; (1) – a technical committee of scientists will be tasked with reviewing existing data on Fraser stream-type Chinook biology, spawning success as well as population trends and dynamics. Their findings will be used to inform the second component of the review; (2) – a planning process will look at fisheries risk and attempt to develop fishing management recommendations based on the technical committees work.
The challenges for our Chinook fishery are based more on access priority than harvest and fishery impacts. We catch 400 – 1200 Chinook of Fraser origin during the spring and summer off south Vancouver Island based on a total return in the 40,000 to 60,000 adult Fraser 5-2 Chinook, which is far less than the 25,000 or so caught each year by First Nations on the river. Hence our impact on these stocks of concern are genuinely minimal. However, several Lower Fraser First Nations Bands have launched a legal challenge against DFO’s management of Fraser Chinook citing their inability to catch sufficient Food, Social and Cultural fish due to DFO regulations as being a breach of the law. The crux of the matter is First Nations, supported by the environmental community, want us closed down to salmon fishing to increase their harvest of Chinook. A closure of our fishery would be catastrophic.
Stay tuned as this important review takes place and more details become available. Also please know that SVIAC will continue to represent your interests to the best of their ability by being at the table and supporting the SFAB in what ever way they can to ensure DFO makes wise decisions and your fisheries are protected.
At the recent Sport Fishing Advisory Board, Main Board meeting on April 16th in Richmond, DFO could not assure your SVIAC SFAB reps present that Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait recreational salmon fishery would not be closed in May, June and July this year. What a potential catastrophe that would be if there was a closure to salmon fishing!
SVIAC SFAB reps found out that some 30 Fraser First Nations and the Marine Conservation Caucus have sent letters to Fisheries Minister Tootoo and/or DFO, lobbying hard for the salmon fishery to be closed in the Juan de Fuca and Haro Straits.
While DFO staff could not rule out a closure, they indicated the minister in Ottawa would make that decision this year. They did, however, suggest a possible increase in restrictive regulations for all recreational anglers in the path of migrating Fraser Chinook salmon, both in the ocean and in the river as a compromise position. Their suggestion was around here to implement the slot restriction (Zone 1) regardless of abundance of Fraser Spring and Summer 5-2 Chinook. Elsewhere the Zone 1 restriction would apply regardless, which affects Fraser River anglers and even the sports fishers in the interior on the Thompson River.
Due to the predictions of a low Fraser Sockeye return this year and likely reduced First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial Sockeye fishing opportunity, Fraser First Nations want to harvest more Chinook. The extra Chinook would be for their FSC as an offset for the lack of Sockeye, regardless of conservation. Closing Victoria and area to salmon fishing in May, June and July and providing more Chinook to Fraser FN would be an extraordinary re-allocation NOT based on conservation. Any Chinook saved by closing our fishery would simply be caught in the river net fishery, no more would get to the spawning beds.
Needless to say there was considerable concern expressed to DFO by the SFAB Main Board reps. The reply to DFO was this is not acceptable. Clearly, the requests to close or inflict more restrictive regulations on the south island salmon angling community is not based in conservation. The Fraser FN want more Chinook and DFO seem to think our area’s recreational fishery can be offered as some kind of sacrificial lamb to appease others.
SVIAC have reseached the available data and see a preliminary 2016 prediction for adult Fraser Spring and Summer 5-2 Chinook to be at medium abundance levels (between 45,000 and 85,000). Therefore, we would expect Chinook to be managed in Zone 2 according to the current abundance-based management model. And the Pacific Salmon Commission abundance indicator suggests a total return of almost 250,000 Chinook to the Fraser. If the fish show up as predicted it would be absolutely unfair to force Juan de Fuca and Haro Strait salmon anglers to endure the severest regulationss.
It would set a dangerous precedent and the minister would ill-advised to approve this closure. If he does, this would essentially being laying down a declaration of war against the whole public recreational fishery in British Columbia. While we don’t think a closure will be implemented, we also really don’t want worse restrictions either.
To respond to this alarming situation SVIAC strongly recommends all its individual and corporate members write to Minister Tootoo in Ottawa and express their significant concern. SVIAC will contiunue to advocate strongly for your fishing interests at all levels of government.
“As president, I can assure our members that SVIAC will do everything possible to advocate for your fishing interests and lobby hard to stop further restrictions or a closure from being implemented this year.” stated Christopher Bos, the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition president, “Everyone who fishes recreationally for salmon in BC should write a letter to the fisheries minister as this could set such a bad precedent for all.”
The SVIAC Board of Directors are both proud and pleased to announce we have now moved into the delivery phase of the Sooke River Chinook Revitalization Initiative (SRCRI). We have recently received approval in principal from DFO for SRCRI – Enhancement Component – Phase One, the out-planting of 200,000 Chinook smolts into temporary marine enclosures in the spring of 2017. Our smolt out-planting proposal has been approved in DFO by the Salmon Enhancement Program, the Stock Assessment Group and Fisheries and Aquaculture Management and has been included into the 2016/2017 draft salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan as part of the SEP production plan.
Additionally, SVIAC has recently learnt our application for grant funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation to assist with the major equipment costs associated with the project has been approved. We are also in the process of purchasing the appropriate marine enclosure equipment in order to be ready for next spring. As the budget for year one of this phase is high, we really hope the angling community will help us raise funds for this excellent project. Watch for opportunities to support this initiative in the very near future!
Updates will be posted on the SRCRI page of this website.
Over the last 3 years SVIAC membership has more than tripled and we are thankful for all our members support! In order to better serve our growing membership we are moving over to online membership management software called Groupspaces.
This new membership system will make managing membership faster, simpler and more accurate. To purchase or renew a membership all one needs to do now is log onto the SVIAC secure Groupspaces website on this website (Click here!), create your own private membership account, then pay for your membership via PayPal as one did before with online memberships through our website.
To get your new membership card all you need to to do is bring in your PayPal receipt to Gizmo’s Computers located at 774 Bay St, Victoria (by the Wendy’s on Bay St and Blanshard) for the time being. We plan to have a number of additional corporate member retail locations around the Victoria area to pick up your new card in the next several months.
When you get your new card you will notice that it looks different. It will have a new photo on it (as seen above), but more importantly, we have changed the format. It is now a punch card, where the month and year of purchase is punched out on the card to indicate when the card expires. Using this new format makes it much faster than waiting to get cards printed with the member’s names and then mailing them out via snail mail. Now members can get their cards within hours, instead of weeks. We will still mail out cards to the few members who are unable to get their cards any other way.
Using Groupspaces online membership will allow us also to keep our membership information, especially contact information more accurately and up to date. This means we can better keep you informed via our quarterly newsletter and emails on SVIAC events, projects, and important fisheries related information.
Shawnigan Creek Coho, A Salmon Enhancement Success Story Now in Crisis:
In the late 1970’s the Goldstream river fish stocks were at an all-time low. In 1979 a group of anglers who would be later be known as the Mill Bay and District Conservation Society had an idea. The idea was to simply transplant Goldstream River salmon fry into Shawnigan Creek, and create a run of Coho salmon into the watershed. The big challenge with Shawnigan Creek is it has several impassable falls. To get around this the group devised trap system where the fish could be held on return. Fish were held in an open pen, netted, sorted through, and placed in special transportation tanks. These tanks were driven to various locations along the creek, so that maturing fish could spawn in the system.
Shawnigan creek is not only important to Shawnigan Lake and its ecosystem, but it is vital to the Goldstream River. In times of low returns on the Goldstream River, the Shawnigan project has supplied broodstock Coho many times over the years.
In 2012 Shawnigan Creek had an unexpected surprise with 5,000 mature Coho, which is an extremely incredible achievement. This return had surpassed the Goldstream River, and many other streams/rivers within the Greater Victoria region. This story is incredible for just a small unpaid group of volunteers who created a run in a stream that never had one.
Now in 2015 with another successful return of over 2300 Coho this creek is in crisis, and this fairytale may now be coming to a close.
In August 21, 2013 the Ministry of Environment (MOE) granted South Island Aggregates Ltd. (SIA)/ Cobble Hill Holdings (CHH) a 50-year permit to receive up to 100,000 tons of contaminated soil annually (a total of five million tons). The location of the site is very close to upper Shawnigan Creek and is a threat to vital spawning and rearing habitat for the Coho. Despite calls from concerned citizens of Shawnigan Lake of the project to DFO, MOE and other ministries to stop this contaminated soil facility it has fallen on deaf ears. The drinking water in Shawnigan Lake is an issue for thousands of residents, but our salmon once again have taken the backseat as a risk to this project. If even a small amount highly toxic contaminates enter the creek it could wipe out what has taken 36 years to achieve, and also threaten our Goldstream River Coho stocks.
There is no place for any dumping of contaminated materials if it jeopardizes our Pacific salmon bearing creeks, and our fish must be protected as part of the Fisheries Act of Canada. The Shawnigan Residents Association (SRA) and Cowichan Regional District (CVRD) are already in Supreme Court in BC to try to get the BC MOE permit stopped in respects to drinking water and land permit use of this site. We all have a duty to protect wild Pacific salmon, and for South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition this issue strikes very close to home.
For more information please visit:
• Shawnigan Resident Association (SRA) Background http://www.thesra.ca/
• Andrew Weaver MLA blog on (SIA) Project http://www.andrewweavermla.ca/?s=shawnigan
• 2012 Article on Mill Bay and District Society Project in Sidney Anglers Association Newsletter http://www.sidneyanglers.ca/sites/default/files/09GM%20Minutes%20October%202013.pdf
Concerned anglers and charter operators, who are growing increasingly upset with the surge in intensity of commercial crabbing in certain areas around the south island, have started making noise. A lack of available crabs for the public fishery has often been the normal and valid complaint, after commercial fishermen have depleted crab abundance in areas close to anglers’ home ports.
Sadly, DFO has not responded effectively to these complaints over the years, so the issue keeps occurring. But the current problem is more about safety than crab abundance.
In late May a member of Sidney Anglers Association (SAA) executive provided the SFAB a written account of sports fishermen running into commercial crab gear and some dangerous circumstances occurring in Sidney Channel. With one small marker identifying a string of between 10 – 20 traps, it becomes very dangerous for anglers, whose gear is set to be close to the sandy or pebble bottom when trying to catch a Chinook, as they may snag the traps and lines on the bottom. For boaters is critical to know where the crab traps are positioned for safety purposes. If a commercial trap line is poorly marked or the float becomes buried below the surface because it gets fouled by kelp, anglers have no idea there are traps present.
In addition, incidents of short floating, which is illegal (Short floating, a term used to describe the float being purposefully set below the surface and not visible to boaters) are now being reported in Sidney and Sooke.
The SAA member’s letter echoed other members concerns after several had faced dangerous snag ups when their downrigging gear was caught on commercial crabbing lines. Besides the hundreds of dollars in lost fishing gear experienced by the anglers, they really could face serious danger. This danger is especially possible for novice boaters in smaller fishing boats when bottom bouncing cannonballs in the moving water like that of Sidney Channel. This is actually very serious. If not addressed properly and soon, loss of life is conceivable.
Throughout this summer Sooke salmon anglers and charter operators have experienced the same challenges as occurred in Sidney due to intense commercial crabbing. The sheer volume of traps and trap lines, poorly marked gear and buried floats are becoming regular occurrences from Secretary Island to Sheringham Point. In Sooke, there has been a long standing pact between local commercial crabbers and sports fishermen that has both parties agreeing to voluntary no go areas to avoid gear conflicts and danger during key months. But it now seems some of the less scrupulous commercial operators have chosen to ignore this historic gentlemen’s agreement in Sooke.
The result is a plethora of commercial traps set directly where some of Sooke anglers’ key salmon fishing grounds are located. If the commercial trap lines are marked incorrectly or if the commercial marker floats are buried for any reason, there is a clear increased risk to the anglers. And that’s not just the risk of losing downrigger gear.
It appears to be a few commercial license holders are spoiling it for all. We have even heard reports of commercial crab boats flying at high speed through the angling fleet without concern for their safety. All these complaints have already been brought to the direct attention of DFO crab managers through our SFAB Ground Fish Shellfish Working Group. Additionally, the issue was discussed at the recent DFO Crab Sectoral meeting in Nanaimo. Initially, it appears not much will be done by DFO. It is therefore important we, at SVIAC, keep up the pressure on this issue and continue pursuing a solution through DFO. Some in the angling community are becoming increasingly upset by the situation, so much so that a special meeting about the issue was held in Sooke recently. Anglers there want action and soon. If nothing is done by the authorities and the problem persists, it is conceivable that someone might look at a vigilante style resolution. No one wants that, so we all need to work this out.
A big part of this problem is the landed value of commercially caught Dungeness crab. Its sky high and commercial license holders are fishing as productively as they can to maximize profits. In the spring and summer of 2014 the landed price on the wharf for commercial caught Dungeness crab doubled, due to a surging demand from the Far East. About 30% of all of Canada’s Dungeness crabs are exported to China currently. With the Chinese economy reportedly slowing down that might lead to less demand overseas and a subsequent lower price, but action is needed for the Sidney and Sooke angling community.
We suggest the best approach right now is to be vigilant on the water. No one wants anglers to be hurt or lose gear when salmon fishing. In addition, anglers should keep a record of illegal commercial crabbing activity and report it to SVIAC, the local SFAB and DFO. If you find evidence short floated gear keep a record, if you witness improperly marked crab gear keep a record and if you witness a commercial crab fisherman up to no good, get the license number off the boat and record the date, time and place of the occurrence. Send us an email about the incident you saw with details to email@example.com. Also use your cellphone camera to capture a picture as that gives the authorities solid information to follow up. Another option is to bring proposals for closed to commercial crab fishing areas to the SFAB for approval.
We have recommended a special meeting be organized between the area commercial crab fishing rep, some local charter operators and the local SFAB reps, to discuss how this issue can be addressed in a conciliatory manner. SVIAC is watching this issue carefully. We certainly do not want to see anyone getting too frustrated and take matters into their own hands. DFO and Transport Canada must be thoroughly briefed about the problem. The authorities have an obligation to actively resolve the problem and soon before people get hurt.
With the 2015 Canadian Federal Election now in the books and a new government about to take over the reins in Ottawa, many are trying to understand what a Justin Trudeau government with a Liberal Party majority might mean to us in our lives. Here are some items to consider: One positive appears to be that the new government does not have aversion to running a deficit, which may mean an opportunity regaining funding cut for important fisheries management services. While no specifics are mentioned, it is definitely something for the SFAB and SVIAC to promote. This would include getting the Vision for Recreational Fisheries in BC, Implementation Plan fulfilled as well.
From a fresh water perspective, the Liberal election platform indicated “We will treat our freshwater as a precious resource that deserves protection and careful stewardship”. This seems fairly general and good statement. They also suggested in their fresh water piece the implementation of Justice Cohen’s Commission recommendations regarding Sockeye salmon. If so, much of the key pieces relate to changes in fish farming practices in the ocean along areas where Sockeye migrate. Regarding freshwater angling, it is likely there will be little change as that is managed by the provincial government. The same applies to steelhead management currently a provincial responsibility. From a saltwater fisheries perspective there may be some impacts to come on the West Coast. The Liberal election platform indicated the new government under their control would implement a significant increase in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Citing a Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society example the Liberal platform documents indicate that currently Canada only has 1.3% of Protected Ocean Estate by Country. The Liberal mandate sees the implementation an increase to 5% by 2017 and 10% 2020. That relates to a 4 fold increase by 2017 from current levels and an 8 fold increase by 2020. The key will be where those MPA will be. The East Coast, the North Coast and the West Coast of Canada will likely all see new or enlarged existing MPAs established. It is worth noting that MPAs are not open to extraction or removal of marine creatures, so fishing as an activity is traditionally not permitted. Hence one could assume a loss of fishing opportunity for our sector if this platform issue is delivered upon on the West Coast. Clearly, there is a need for us to be vigilant when planning processes start and consultations on the selection of area and location for new MPAs gets underway.
It is also worth noting, Parks Canada will be boosted by the new government reversing the cuts made by the Harper government. The Liberals also plan to add an additional $25,000,000 to develop Canada’s National Park system. Around South Vancouver Island there are several Parks Canada initiatives currently languishing on hold that if revitalized may directly impact your fisheries. The most notable of those is the Southern Gulf Islands National Marine Conservation Area in the waters off Sidney.
Another important consideration is who will Justin Trudeau appoint as his new Fisheries Minister? Will that new minister have any knowledge of our unique and complex fishery in British Columbia? Will Trudeau opt for one of the BC MPs to be the new Fisheries Minister? This is important to us here on South Vancouver Island. Many former Fisheries Ministers have hailed from the East Coast, where commercial fisheries are king. Geoff Regan, a former Fisheries Minister from Dec 2003 to Feb 2006, was recently re-elected as MP for Halifax West. Could he be given the job? Or perhaps the appointment will go to Lawrence MacAulay, the former Liberal fisheries critic, who maintained his seat in the election for the PEI riding of Cardigan. Rumor has it, he enjoys recreational fishing himself. There are many choices.
While we do not know what the new cabinet look like or who the ministers will be, we have heard from Trudeau his cabinet will be smaller and equally represented by women and men. In the weeks and months to come we will find out just how our important public recreational fisheries will be changed, if at all. Let’s all hope if there are changes, they are for the better.
SVIAC Surveys Federal Election Candidates from the Local Ridings … With the country in the midst of a federal election campaign, the public are increasingly bombarded with political messages, party advertising and the media’s election coverage. The race to become the next governing party in Ottawa is high stakes and is heating up as we rapidly approach voting day, Monday October 19th, 2015. By the look of the polls the race appears to be very close amongst the three main parties.
Make no mistake, this election is important to all Canadians. Who governs and what policies that governing party pursues, will influence each of our lives. For eligible voters, filling out a ballot at election time is an important right and gives Canadians the opportunity to have their say. Many different factors influence voters when choosing a candidate or party.
Although angling and conservation may be considered low on the list of overall importance by some voters, to ardent anglers knowing where their election candidates stand on angling, fish and conservation issues is very relevant. For that reason SVIAC are conducting a survey of election candidates from the four major parties on South Vancouver Island.
Candidates from Victoria, Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, Saanich-Gulf Islands, Cowichan-Malahat-Langford and Nanaimo-Ladysmith ridings have all been approached. We will be supplying survey response after our survey response deadline on Friday 9th October 2015
The candidate responses to SVIAC’s Election Survey can be found here … Results
The .pdf file of the seven survey questions can be found at this link here
The Alpine Group Juan de Fuca Fishing Tournament is Vancouver Island’s premier fishing event!