Sunday, July 12, 2009

Extinction looms for salmon without addressing harvest rate issues

The Terrace based Skeena Wild Conservation trust has issued their annual report and while they see some positive trends compared to years gone by, there still is some danger for the wild salmon of the Skeena

The Trust gave a number of grades for a variety of issues surrounding the state of wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest and for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, some of those grades won’t be something to bring home to mom and dad.

After examining the 2008 fishery the Trust assessed grades of “E” to DFO when it came to the rate of harvest and with the issue of First Nations management.

The full details on their findings can be found on their website, where their first annual report card has been provided.

By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, July 9, 2009
Page two

A report card on last year's salmon fishery on the North Coast river has been released by a Terrace-based salmon conservation group.

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust's report graded everything from harvest rates to First Nations access to the economy.

On most accounts, Skeena Wild's report showed barely passes (C grades), but gave the DFO a fail on harvest rates and First Nations.

"There are indications that Skeena wild salmon management moved in the right direction compared to previous years," said SkeenaWild executive director Greg Knox. "But if issues around harvest rates aren't addressed for the 2009 fishing season, we're going to see weak salmon stocks put at even greater risk of extinction."

The report said on harvesting that there were minor reductions in 2008, however, Canada's aggregate exploitation rate on Skeena sockeye salmon was 42 per cent. Well above the 20-to-30 per cent total Canadian exploitation rate recommended by the Skeena Independent Science Review Panel.

"The exploitation rate on endangered Kitwanga River sockeye was 50 per cent, well in excess of DFO scientists' own recommended maximum of 34 per cent. Other endangered stocks with similar return timing, such as Slamgeesh sockeye, also likely experienced serious over harvesting," the report claimed.

On First Nations management, the DFO was given an 'E'. The group suggested that the marine and downstream harvest of these endangered populations needs to be set low enough to protect and rebuild these stocks so that the Gitanyow and Wet' suwet' en can once again meet their food, social and ceremonial needs.

The group recommends that weekly harvest rate caps need to be set that protect endangered Skeena salmon stocks. As an example, this would explicitly mean reducing the total exploitation rates on endangered Kitwanga River sockeye to well below 34 per cent, as recommended by the management agencies own fisheries biologists.

'The department would definitely look at the recommendations from the report but we haven't had a chance to look at them in detail at this point," said DFO Pacific Region spokesperson, Jeff Grout.

Grout added that further discussions on the report would occur after consultations with First Nations, commercial fishermen, recreational fishing operators as the DFO develops its management plans.

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