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Sportfishing Institute of BC July Updates

Posted on July 12th, 2016, by Sportfishing Institute of BC

As we head into the middle of July, we thought we'd take this opportunity to update you on a few of the issues we've been tracking over the past few weeks.

Hatchery Chinook in Sooke – An Aid to Orcas

First, we were pleased to see a group of conservation-minded anglers in Sooke receive approval from DFO for their plan to raise and release 200,000 hatchery chinook salmon in an effort to increase the food supply for southern resident orcas. We think the proponents should be congratulated for their perseverance in getting this unique project approved by DFO experts.

The project was greeted with skepticism by those who appeared to prefer the recommendations of a new plan recommending additional fisheries closures to protect southern orca populations. The report suggested that it should be a high priority for DFO to investigate strategic fishery closures over the next five years to reduce the whales' prey competition in specific feeding areas. While we have no doubt that recreational anglers will support orca protection, we are disappointed that some groups are only interested in protecting Orcas on the terms they deem appropriate.

Descending Devices for Rockfish

We continue to watch and explore options to aid in emerging rockfish conservation techniques. The use of descending devices as a means of reducing bycatch mortalities shows promise. These devices have been used successfully in the US for many years and this summer, a number of lodges and guides in BC have chosen to test the devices. Results are good and are well summed up by Duncanby Lodge's Syd Keay who reported "we are finding that the Seaqualizer release devices work very well. It took time to figure out on the correct speed to send them down but we have it figured now and have released many rockfish. We release fish at about half the speed of the free spool on a halibut rod with a 2 lb weight, and the devices work perfectly." It seems pretty clear that descenders will soon become the "must-have" device for any angler fishing in areas known for rockfish bycatch. More information about the Seaqualizer, an example of a descending device, is found here.

While still on the subject of rockfish we thought we should pass along some material from UVIC researchers looking into the topic. The researchers said:

As part of a research project with UVIC's School of Environmental Studies and the Galiano Conservancy Association, we have a created an online Rockfish Conservation Survey for recreational fishers. The purpose of this research project is to assess the levels of recreational fisher compliance and awareness of Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Salish Sea, and to receive feedback from fishers on how rockfish conservation could be improved.

We've also developed many maps and materials to inform the general public about Rockfish Conservation Areas in BC. Feel free to check out and print some of our materials online at the link below.

Transport Canada and SFAB Offshore Guidelines for Tuna Catch and Safety

We can report that the new SFAB safety and catch guidelines for the recreational tuna fishery are available and have been coordinated with feedback from Transport Canada. The safety guidelines are available here. And, the tuna handling guidelines are available here. Transport Canada will be sending out safety notices as the tuna season approaches.

Long-term Catch Sustainability

And, sustainability, a topic of interest to us all, is discussed in the following article by Mark Hume. The article provides results of an interesting new study out of Simon Fraser University on catch diversity and its impacts on long-term catch sustainability.

By Mark Hume

Given a choice between setting their nets for a large run of salmon, or a smaller run with greater population and species diversity, most fishers would likely choose the former. More fish should mean better catches.

But a new study by researchers at Simon Fraser University, who examined decades of data from First Nations fisheries on British Columbia's Fraser River, has found that salmon runs offering the most diversity also provide the best catches over time.

"The fisheries that had more diverse salmon portfolios were more consistent from year to year - three times more consistent, roughly - and they also had way longer fishing seasons, three to four times more weeks where there was fresh fish coming in," said Jonathan Moore, Liber Ero chair of Coastal Science and Management at SFU. He oversaw the research done by master's student Holly Nesbitt. The results were surprising but irrefutable, he said Thursday in an interview, prior to publication of the study on Friday in the Journal of Applied Ecology. "By looking at 30 years of catch over 21 different fisheries, we can sort of deconstruct what matters in terms of the consistency of the fishery from year to year," Dr. Moore said. He said the research was able to clarify which fisheries had boom-and-bust cycles and which had stable and predictable returns year after year. "And we could also figure out, well, is that due to them catching different species of salmon, or is it due to them catching lots of different populations? "And that was one of the really cool parts of the study, because it seemed like what was the most important was that fine-scale diversity was really driving the patterns," he said.

Ms. Nesbitt said she examined First Nations fisheries all the way from the mouth of the Fraser to the Nechako River, a tributary some 800 kilometres upstream. The data showed that the most productive fisheries were based on runs that not only had a diversity of different species, but had population diversity within species. "One of the interesting things that we found was that population diversity had a stronger effect than species-level diversity did. "And we found that surprising," she said.

Chinook, coho, chum, sockeye, pink salmon and steelhead are all different species that return to the Fraser. Within each species there is also population diversity, which refers to behavioural attributes of different groups of fish, such as run timing or spawning location. For example, some populations of chinook return in early April, but others come back months later, in September; some spawn in big tributaries, such as the Thompson River, while others head for tiny streams, such as Blue Creek, in the Pitt River Valley. "Species diversity is the number of species ... whereas population diversity is the number of populations within a species," Ms. Nesbitt said. "Each species is made up of different groups that spawn in different areas, and they come from all over the watershed and so they make up the finer-scale diversity that is spread throughout the watershed." She said managing fisheries down to that finer scale is extremely important. But that isn't always done. In mixed-stock fisheries, for example, nets are set for one species of salmon, but other species are often caught because different runs sometimes mix together. Nets set for a prolific run of chum, for example, can end up killing endangered steelhead. To avoid that, Ms. Nesbitt said, fisheries can be moved to areas where the species and different populations separate, such as further upstream rather than at the river mouth or in the ocean.

"In the Skeena, we're seeing a push ... to target specific populations by going to more terminal locations within a watershed. ... That way you are not targeting the mass, sort of the big pool [of salmon], and you can focus on [catching] populations that are doing better and protect populations that are doing poorly," Ms. Nesbitt said. The study underscores the importance of protecting salmon habitat, she said. "It demonstrates that fine scale diversity is really important - and you get fine-scale diversity by having a lot of habitat diversity throughout the watershed." Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, urged the federal government to take note of the research. "Protection of the broadest genetic diversity of wild salmon stocks will help [government] provide for our future generations," he said in a statement.

Save the Date – 2016 Big Splash and Conference

The 2016 Big Splash and Industry Policy Conference will be held on a Friday. Mark November 25th, at the Pacific Gateway Hotel in Richmond. We know it's still early, but it's never too early to save the date. Much more information to follow.

SFI Member Benefits

As a member, we encourage you to take advantage of the SFI - please feel free to call or write regarding any issues you may encounter related to sport fishing in BC. Our team and board of directors has worked tirelessly to advocate on your behalf and to be knowledgeable regarding issues and policies affecting our sector.

We will be pleased to assist, or direct you appropriately, on issues that may require input from or work with Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and numerous Ministries in the Province.

If you haven't recently, check in on the Member Benefits section of the SFI website for services and materials that can aid your business.

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