LETTER: DFO wrong-headed | Squamish Chief

LETTER: DFO wrong-headed

Re: “Sea to Sky Sport fishers furious over DFO chinook regulations” published online July 1.

The DFO mentioned that “conservation is our first priority in the management of the salmon fishery, followed by First Nations food, social and ceremonial fisheries” and yet as I write there are gill net openings in the Fraser River at the exact timing when the stocks of concern are travelling in the relevant areas in the Fraser River.

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DFO suggests that “marking significant numbers of hatchery-origin chinook would be expensive and in some areas would be logistically challenging.”

Mass marking hatchery chinook can now be done automatically with machines in mobile trailer units. There is already one on Vancouver Island. After the initial cost of equipment, the expense per fish goes down because the machines are so much faster and efficient. The cost would be well worth the investment. 

If DFO somehow can’t come up with any funding for mass marking then the equipment could perhaps be funded by adding a few dollars to each fishing licence.

The damage caused to the economy that fishing brings to B.C. due to this closure of chinook fishing for healthy chinook stocks should be much more of a concern for DFO than the cost of a couple more trailers.

DFO goes on to say that “producing additional hatchery-origin chinook to support fisheries must be carefully planned to ensure the carrying capacity of natural systems to support salmon and control potential competitive interactions between hatchery and wild salmon,”  however this is misleading because the mass-marking of hatchery chinook is only for the same number of hatchery chinook that are already produced by DFO. Presently, about 10% of hatchery chinook that DFO already produces are marked (adipose fin removed).

Public fishers would like closer to 100% of those hatchery-produced chinook to be marked. That would be a similar mark rate to what some DFO hatcheries mark the hatchery coho salmon and also the rate that Washington and Oregon mark their hatchery chinook.  Marking hatchery chinook helps protect wild chinook stocks because fishers can then recognize which chinook are wild and release them. 

DFO’s comment that they have concern with “carrying capacity of natural systems” is not a concern when they are not adding any more hatchery chinook and marking only what they already produce. 

When referring to mass marking hatchery chinook DFO suggests  “It also must be done in a way to ensure that the genetic diversity of wild origin salmon is maintained, and that marked fish do not adversely impact wild unmarked stocks of conservation concern.” There, DFO is misleading the public again. That comment is irrelevant in this case because DFO already produces these numbers of hatchery chinook. The act of mass marking hatchery chinook that have already been produced will not alter genetic diversity of wild salmon.  Adding more hatchery chinook could but I ask myself why does DFO keep confusing marking already produced hatchery chinook with the adding of more? 

MP Patrick Weiler says “while recreational fishers say they would only have a 1% impact on the stocks, 250,000 licenses are held for the Pacific Region, which includes our waters.”

The interception by public fishers in the Georgia Strait area is very low on the early run of wild Fraser River chinook stocks of concern ( less than 1%). This data came from DNA and other chinook sampling gathered by passionate public fishers. What is really promising is if hatchery chinook were mass marked and public fishers could retain only those hatchery chinook via marked selective fishery, that less than 1% interception of wild chinook would then drop to virtually zero.

Mass marking and marked selective fisheries for hatchery chinook would allow for retention of hatchery chinook and the avoidance of the stocks of concern.

 In August, the early run Fraser River stocks of concern will have passed through giving way to healthy stocks so if healthy stocks are arriving into the Fraser River by August and as DFO says, the stocks of concern have passed through by that time.

So why then are the marine areas of Vancouver, Howe Sound and parts of Georgia Strait closed for fishing for healthy chinook stocks at that time? The closure looks very much like a political re-allocation of a public resource to me. 

Greg Morton

North Vancouver

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