Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Podunk Below the Masthead (Monday, March 15, 2010)

A surprising bounty of Eulachon, the stage was set for the final consultation in the School closure debate and the city was talking waste water last week, some of the items of note from the Monday news files.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
'CANDLE FISH' ARE BRIGHTENING THE LIVES OF LOCAL FN FISHERMEN -- The Daily News provides a front page story on the Eulachon run of 2010, described as the best run since 2004. A sentiment that is shared by DFO's Mangament Bilologist Mark Potyrala  who put this years run at exceptional. Locally a popular landing spot has been China Bar, where the Skeena is quite shallow allowing First Nation fishers to set up their nets for the apparent bounty of candlefish to come.

Monday marked the fourth and final session of School Board consultations on the process over the potential closure of schools in School District 52. As that final session was set to get underway, Port Edward once again weighed in with the declaration that they reject the notion that their school should close, advising that they had no intention of sending  their five year olds on buses to Prince Rupert. Mayor Dave MacDonald is awaiting the findings from a report to be compiled by L and M engineering that will outline the costs of keeping the Port Edward school open under a variety of scenarios.

Those findings are expected to be available on March 23rd, which is six days after School District trustees say they will have collected from stakeholders. Their deadline doesn't seem to be intimidating for MacDonald who  reinforces the fact that once a school is chosen for closure it sill has another year before the doors remain shut. A situation that he believes offers that community the opportunity to negotiate with the School District should their school be the one identified for closure.      

Waste Disposal was high on the minds of City officials last week as they hosted an open house at City Hall to go over the City's Liquid Waste Management Plan, which has now been narrowed down to three locations. The three potential spots to host pump stations and gravity tanks are Hays Creek, Morse Creek and Richie Point. The capital cost of implementing any of the three options ranges from 80 - 90 million dollars, which could be paid down over a period of twenty to thirty years. Recommendations as to which path to follow will be made by early summer, providing the residents of the city with more opportunity to provide feedback on the plan, at which point the City will be eligible to apply for grants to help defray the cost of moving forward with the plan.

The Sports section featured comprehensive coverage of the Friday finals in the All Native Junior Basketball Tournament held at the Civic Centre.

(Archive for Daily News Articles for March 15, 2010 )

'Candle fish' are brightening the lives of local FN fishermen
Last leg of school consultations
Liquid waste management update
More flights available to Kitkatla
Working for a 'living wage'

The Northern View
No new items were posted to the Northern View website for Monday

CFTK TV 7 News
No new items were posted to the CFTK TV 7 website for Monday

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North
No updates to the CBC website have been made since March 5th

The most recently posted items archive for Daybreak North can be found here

Daily News, front page, headline story

‘Candle fish’ are brightening the lives of local FN fishermen 
By George T. Baker  
The Daily News 
Monday, March 15, 2010 

The Skeena River is alive with all kinds of species this March.

In the midst of a late snowfall, eagles, seagulls, seals and sea lions – and fishermen – are busy fishing for a silver skinned fish that has been hard to hook for the past six years.

There are plenty of eulachon to be found in 2010 and most of those interested in the ‘candlefish’ are at a loss to identify why.

According to longtime commercial fisherman and Metlakatla hereditary chief Clarence Nelson, this is the best run he’s seen since 2004. It has been hard to judge why this year is better than most, but Nelson believes that the lack of ice on the Skeena has made a difference.

 “The river was still frozen at this time last year. You could have walked across the river at this time last year. This year there has been no ice, so we’ve been able to get at it,” said Nelson.

 Nelson said on one run he was able to catch approximately 5,000 pounds of eulachon – a favourite of the First Nations community in British Columbia – near China Bar.

Last week, Nelson and some of his nephews took the opportunity to catch some ‘candlefish’ with both beach seine nets and gillnets. The Skeena was quite shallow and the men were easily able to catch the fish they were looking for by walking their nets across one of the province’s most powerful water bodies.

 “It is the best we’ve had in six years. We haven’t had anything like that since 2004,” said Nelson. 

Fisheries and Oceans have been tracking the fisheries on both the Skeena and the Nass rivers this year. DFO Management Biologist Mark Potyrala agreed with Nelson’s summation.

 “This was the best I’ve seen since 2004. Judging by what I have seen with regards to bird life, the distribution and the amount of birds, how many seals and sea lions and with the First Nations catches, it sounds like it is exceptional,” said Potyrala.

It isn’t just the Skeena. The Nass River is having a 
wonderful year as well.

Blair Stewart is the Nisga’a Fisheries Coastal Manager. He told the Daily News that the year has been another good one for the Nass Valley.

 “It is doing about as good as it has been for the last few years. The camps are progressing nicely and they are done filling their bins up for what they are going to use in making grease. Some of the camps are beginning the work on food harvesting for the communities,” said Stewart.

Why this year is going so well is a mystery. The eulachon are not a well-funded fishery for DFO. The federal government kicks in $10,000 direct dollars per year to analyze the eulachon, plus they discover whatever they can when researching other fish. Mainly this small amount of assigned funding is because eulachon are not seen as a viable commercial fish, simply a fish valued only by First Nations.

Beyond funds, the other challenge is associated with the fish’s life cycle. Most of an eulachon’s life is spent out in the ocean, only incubating and spawning in fresh waters.

“There is very little known about eulachon,” explained Stewart. “We know that the Skeena River has always been hit or miss. This year she is doing quite well – considering there is still some bird activity and some eulachon running in. What we have noticed over the [past few] years is that it seems the runs have come in the same time, which they usually don’t.”

According to Stewart, the Skeena normally receives its eulachon run a little earlier than the Nass. It is theorized that the eulachon are a northbound fish, hitting Alaskan rivers last. That is the opposite of salmon runs, which appear to be southbound, hitting Alaska first then the North Coast.

“We don’t know enough about what happens to them out in the ocean, which is a huge component of their life history,” said Potyrala. “What it would indicate to me, from what I have seen and the samples I have taken this year, the eulachon are bigger than normal.”

Potyrala didn’t have hard quantitative data to back that up, but said that - by looking at what he’s held in his hand, what he had taken measurements on, and what First Nations fishermen have told him – he believed the fish were much bigger than they have been in previous years.

The trade value of eulachon is immense for Northwestern First Nations. Nelson’s nephew Doug Doolan told the Daily News that catches by Nelson, his brother Gary and himself have already fed people in the Hazletons, Kitselas, Kitsemkalum, Port Edward, Prince Rupert, Metlakatla and Port Simpson.

“It’s good for us, but I was just talking to some friends in Kititmat and it sounds like another disaster in there,” said Nelson.

The Haisla living on Douglas Channel have not yet had the same good news as the North Coast.

Haisla band councillor Gerald Amos told the Daily News that while the run is unpredictable, “the eulachon don’t listen to us,” his family was already making preparation for trading.

 “We are trying to line some eulachon up with some friends in the Nass,” said Amos. “But I am not sure what our fisheries department is doing in that area.”

Modern fish trading echoes the traditional way of commerce, with usually something of use traded directly for the fish rather than using cash currency.

“That’s the fallacy of the barter system - that there wasn’t an economy before contact with Europeans. There was always something given in return. It wasn’t a piece of paper with the Queen’s picture on it,” said Amos.

However, catching the fish is labour intensive. When using a gillnet, it took four to five hours to pick all the fish off the net – one y one. And the first fishermen on the scene had to be quick. As the birds grew in numbers, so did the fishermen.

Transporting this year’s vast quantities of eulachon has created its own set of challenges.

“We had to find a pickup truck. I had a Ford Escape. You can’t put fish in a Ford Escape. Well, you could. But it stinks too much,” explained Doolan.

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