A report prepared by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for this week’s meeting of the International Pacific Halibut Commission in Anchorage says the controversial program where recreational fishers could buy quota from commercial fishers had only “limited success…with few pounds caught.”
The report also says that Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield will be making a “decision on any changes to the current allocation plan in advance of the 2012 fishing season.”
The IPHC report says:
For the 2011 season only, DFO implemented an experimental leasing program, where interested recreational fishers could receive experimental licenses that would allow them to lease halibut quota from commercial quota holders and allow continued sport fishing after the general sport fish closure. The program allowed for a market-based transfer system and provided the recreational sector access to fish outside their management allocation. The program had limited success with 4,000 pounds transferred with few pounds caught.
Later in the report, the IPHC says that DFO did not release to the commission the exact figures for halibut caught under the pilot project.
According to the report, once again the recreational catch exceeded its assigned quota. DFO provided a preliminary 2011 sport catch estimate of 1.220 million pounds, which exceeded the sport fishery allocation by 272,000 pounds (29%). Canada overall also exceeded its halibut quota. The report says “The total Area 2B catch of 7.87 million pounds was 3% over the combined total catch limit (7.65 million pounds).” The commercial fishery came in slightly under quota, “less than one per cent,” according to the report. Any difference can be allocated to the First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial Fishery.
The IPHC says that DFO anticipated the controversial early closure of the recreational fishery. The report says: “The season was the shortest on record, opening on March 1 and closing on September 5. In August, DFO projected that the sport allocation would be reached before the usual December 31 season closing date, so an early closure was not unexpected.”
Although there are no figures to prove it, it is likely the decision by the recreational fishers to boycott the program was one reason for the “few pounds” caught as part of the pilot project.
The pilot project announced a year ago, and only for 2011, was intended by DFO as pilot project to get additional quota for recreational halibut fishers and guides from the commercial fishery. The announcement, however, brought anger and demonstrations across British Columbia by the recreational fishery. The halibut allocation dispute was a key issue in most BC coastal ridings during the May election, but wasn’t decisive enough to defeat Conservative candidates such as John Duncan in Vancouver Island North, who kept his seat in a very close vote.
The IPHC opens its annual meeting on Tuesday, January 24, 2012, and concludes on Friday, January 27. The IPHC meeting will also consider recommendations for drastic cuts in halibut quotas all along the western coast of North America for the 2012 season, due to uncertainty about the long term health of the biomass.
The IPHC recommends a total west coast quota of 33.135 million pounds for 2012, a decrease of approximately 19% from 2011. The recommended season will run from March 15 to November 15. It says “This recommendation is a compromise between minimizing interceptions of migrating fish and providing opportunity for market presence of fish wild halibut.”
The proposed quota for British Columbia area 2B is 6,633,000 pounds, down 13.3%. The IPHC staff paper recommends that current Canadian policy of 88 per cent for commercial and 12 per cent for recreational halibut be continued. Recreational fishers and guides have objected to that quota for the past several years.
One of the major problems facing the halibut fishery along the west coast, according to the report, is the large number of undersized females in the total biomass. Any large catch of immature females would have drastic long term consequences on the halibut stock and therefore the halibut fishery.
A staff paper to be considered at the meeting calls for reconsideration of the minimum allowable size, balancing a suggestion to catch more immature males while maintaining the female stock until it can mature and produce a new generation.
Any announcement of a new Canadian policy by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield will be based on a 2011 long review of the Pacific halibut allocation that looked at the long-term options for allocation with objectives of conservation, economic prosperity, and flexibility. The review process included meetings with policy makers, stakeholders, and sector representatives.
British Columbia once had the richest, longest-lasting, sustainable oil economy on the planet.
That’s almost all gone now. While the environmental movement loves to quote Joni Mitchell’s “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,” the collapse of BC’s oil economy is perhaps the best example in history of what Mitchell meant in her song. Big Yellow Taxi.
British Columbia even supplied much-needed oil to Alberta.
The collapse of that oil economy is a cautionary tale for BC in the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline. That’s because a pipeline breach near a key river or a tanker disaster on the BC coast would kill the last remnants of a commodity that made BC oil-rich for thousands of years.
The collapse of that oil economy is a lesson for Alberta and for the entire world.
It should be a lesson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver and Environment minister Peter Kent, but it’s one that they will ignore.
The collapse of that oil economy is a lesson that should be taught ( but isn’t) by the departments of economics, business and politics at oil-patch academic central, the University of Calgary, which trained Stephen Harper and produces those self-satisfied commentators who can’t see anything beyond the Rockies and their own pet economic theories.
The collapse of the BC oil economy is proof that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” much loved of conservative economists is actually a deathly hallow in the hands of all those who are too greedy to care or who don’t bother to see what is actually in front of their blinkered eyes.
Much of the testimony at the Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings at the Haisla Recreation Centre on Tuesday, January 10, 2012, was about that economic collapse. Much of the testimony in Terrace, at the Sportsplex, on Thursday, January 12, 2012, was about that economic collapse.
The national and international media that came to cover that story didn’t realize what they were hearing. Only a couple of stories mentioned the ancient oil economy in BC but just in passing. It is probable that the members of the Joint Review Panel didn’t understand either, but it may be by the end of the hearings, once the panel has heard the story over and over, they may begin to realize how important it is.
(That is one reason that all the testimony before the Joint Review Panel is important. It’s the old story of hitting the donkey over the head with the two by four. The conservatives in the government, in the universities and the media who say repeat testimony isn’t needed are wrong. Sometimes a story has to be told numerous times before the powers that be realize, hey this is important. )
This isn’t about petroleum.
Nor is it about salmon oil or whale oil.
It’s about a small, some say ugly (compared to the magnificent sockeye salmon), member of the smelt family, a very distant relative of the salmon, the oolichan.
(There are several spellings. Euclachon is the usual academic spelling. One rare spelling is “hooligan.” That’s the one that spell checks and auto corrects prefer. Oolichan is the preferred spelling on the northwest coast, and thus that is what this article will use).
It was trade in oolichan oil and oolichan grease that sustained that economy in what is now British Columbia for thousands of years before the coming of Europeans.
Trade in oolichan oil and oolichan grease created the “grease trails,” the trading routes leading from coastal British Columbia throughout the province and across the Rockies into Alberta.
Drive many of the highways in northern British Columbia and, like other parts of North America, where highways follow “Indian trails,” you are likely driving on a grease trail.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the grease trails, the trade in oolichan oil and grease may have begun as early as 5,000 years ago. By 2,000 years ago, the First Nations of British Columbia had a vibrant trading culture, with goods exchanged throughout the province, south to what is now the United States and north to Alaska.
Just as trade and industry in the Old World prompted the creation of infrastructure, the oolichan trade blazed trails and lead to technological developments such as suspension bridges and improved canoes.
The culture of BC First Nations has been disrupted for the past two centuries by smallpox and other diseases, creation of the reserves, by government and church paternalism, by the assimilation of the Indian Act, by residential schools and general acculturation. Despite those horrendous challenges, the oolichan-based trade has, left a multi-millenial legacy of expertise in trade negotiations. That is one factor in the current debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline. Ignorance of history is why the oil-patch and the Harper government have underestimated the First Nations in the current controversy.
Rich fish of the Pacific
The oolichan’s scientific name is Thaleichthys pacificus, “rich fish of the Pacific,” with oil making up to 15 per cent of its body content. That was the source of the rich oil economy.
Another name for the oolichan is “candle fish,” because often a dried oolichan was used as a candle by early European settlers.
The Gitxsan First Nation, now embroiled in a dispute after one chief signed a deal with Enbridge, traditionally called the oolichan the “fish for curing humanity.”
Oolichan grease/oil is rich in omega and other oils now in demand around the world. It is likely that the oolichan grease/oil countered the tendency to depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by the rainy, overcast climate of coastal British Columbia, since omega oils are now recommended as anti-depressant.
Properly managed, renewable in a way whale oil could never be, the oolichan could have been a multi-billion dollar industry, providing wealth to First Nations and export dollars for all of modern British Columbia.
It never happened.
When the Europeans arrived in British Columbia, they ignored the knowledge of the First Nations, ignored the oolichan. First the economic attraction was the sea otter, then it was the forests and the salmon, and then mining and hydro-electric developments. All the time the oolichan was out of sight and out of mind and becoming collateral damage of other industrial development.
The Kitimat River was one of the richest sources of that rich oolichan oil resource.
Haisla Chief Samuel Robinson, who is 78, told the Joint Review Panel: “We used to fish… for oolichans which is now no more because of pollution in the river for the last 30 years. But the river is not dead yet. The salmon still go up there; that’s why we have to protect it. I know we can’t do much about the oohlicans now, but the salmon still go up there.
“Up the river, we spend our days there, harvesting oohlicans. In my childhood days, you didn’t need a net, you didn’t need hook, and you didn’t need anything. You can pick the oohlicans out of the water. In fact you could walk across to the other side. That’s how plentiful it was when we were thriving. [Now] No more oolichans.”
The oolichan stocks across northwestern North America have been declining for a century. No one, except First Nations knew or cared about this valuable, ugly little fish. Thirty years ago the pace of decline increased with the industrial development in the years following the Second World War. By the new millennium, the oolichan population was crashing from Oregon to north of Kitimat. The only viable stocks left are in the Nass and Skeena Rivers and those stocks are in trouble.
The oolichan in the Fraser River had completely collapsed by 2003. There was little, if any, media coverage. Compare that to the coverage of the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run. Major headlines and now a Royal Commission investigating why.
In March, 2010, in California, Oregon and Washington, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service declared the oolichan to be a threatened species.
In January, 2011, I was tipped by three independent informed sources that the Canada’s Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada would soon declare the oolichan north from the US border up to the Skeena and the Nass as an endangered species. At a meeting of non-aboriginal recreational fishing guides that same month that there were also worries expressed that climate change might be affecting the remaining viable oolichan stocks in the Skeena and the Nass. There is no recreational, tourist oolichan harvest, by tradition it belongs to First Nations. The guides had no direct economic stake in the oolichan, but those guides knew very well from experience that the oolichan is a key indicator species in the collapse of all fish stocks in the rivers that they love and which sustain their business.
This crisis was out of sight, out mind with most of British Columbia and ignored by the rest of Canada.
I was unable to get any interest in this “scoop” from any of the national news organizations among my freelance clients. (One admittedly budget strapped editor told me “we’ve done fish from BC.”) Compare that with the ongoing coverage for decades of the cod crisis on Canada’s east coast.
The day the decision came out, in May, 2011 the oolichan was just one of the several species mentioned in the national news round up of new threats to the environment. Here is what COSEWIC news release said:
The Eulachon or ‘candlefish’, so-called because of its exceptionally high oil content and historical use as a candle, was assessed for the first time at this meeting. This small fish was once a cultural mainstay of many First Nations groups of coastal BC and the origin of the famous ‘grease trails’ that linked coastal and inland communities. Since the early 1990s, many traditional fisheries for this species have seen catastrophic declines of 90% or more, and the species is facing extirpation in many rivers. The cause is unclear but may be related to reductions in marine survival associated with shifting environmental conditions, by-catch, directed fishing and predation. Only the Nass River still supports a fishery but even here numbers have declined. The Nass / Skeena Rivers population of Eulachon was assessed as Threatened. Further south, the Central Pacific Coast and the Fraser River populations have experienced even greater declines resulting in an Endangered designation for both populations.
In the national media, only the Mark Hume of The Globe and Mail looked closely at the oolichan collapse, much later, in a story on May 28,. 2011 How to bring back the Eulachon?
In his testimony, on Jan. 10, 2012. Haisla Chief Counsellor, Ellis Ross said: “I was too young to go up the Kitimat River before the oolichan was wiped out. I missed out in that teaching.
“Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oolichans annually, these are the stories that are passed down to me now. It’s not about this is where you go to fish; this is where your fishing camp is. It’s about this is where it used to be. This is what we used to do… “
Ross testified he has being going through the archives and records of the Haisla dealings with the federal and British Columbia governments. “All the assertion letters that council has sent out in the last 40 years in trying to determine what the Haisla Nation goal was. And it all had a common theme: protect the environment; bring back the environment. It always had that.”
He spoke of traditional knowledge and teaching. “Don’t disrupt the environment. Don’t spill any kerosene or gasoline into the river. Don’t litter in the river. Respect not only the oolichan and the river itself, respect your neighbours because once you are done with a fishing spot, you are going to process your oolichan and somebody else is going to move into that spot. So leave it the way you got it.
It’s a crime
“So as I was telling you, I missed out on all that, and it’s a crime. It’s an
“The last story I got from the Kitimat River was my dad with Ray Green Sr. going up there after everybody else gave up on the Kitimat River. They tried to harvest oolichan so they could boil it into oolichan grease, but the end product smelled like effluent coming from the Eurocan Mill, so they thought it was just a product of the water itself. So they went inland a few hundred yards and dug a hole and tried to get the groundwater out of that and try to see if they could boil the oolichans using that. The result was the same.
“After that, there was no point because a run that estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually got reduced to maybe 50 individual oohlicans per year. And I know that because we’re trying to struggle every year to find oolichan so we can test them for taint. If that’s not a signal to Kitimat, if not B.C. and not to Canada, something’s wrong. I don’t know what that is.
“If that was a commercially viable product, the whole country would have been up in arms demanding some sort of report and accountability from DFO. Nothing. We got nothing. Nobody came to our aid.
Ross told of the story of how the Haisla first came to the Kitimat region, how other First Nations were afraid of a giant monster that guarded the channel. When the Haisla reached the Kitimat River estuary it turned out the “monster” was, in fact, so many gulls that they appeared as one huge body when they took to wing.
“I can’t imagine that,” Ross testified. “If there’s thousands upon thousands of seagulls doing that at a distance of maybe greater than seven miles viewing it, imagine how much oolichan was in the river that those seagulls are feeding on.”
“The personal experience I have with the Kitimat River in 2003-2004 was going down to Vancouver to meet with the Minister of Environment. So we were trying to save what was left of the Kitimat River, we were trying to save what was left of the oolichans.
“So the pulp and paper mill couldn’t reach its intended targets in terms of effluent dumping and emissions so what was the provincial government’s solution; let’s amend the permit, let’s make it larger so they can reach their targets. They didn’t say anything about making the company reach those targets, fulfil its obligations, they just said let’s make the permit bigger.
“Well, we told the provincial government ‘If that happens, if you do that against our wishes we’re going to court’. The Minister at the time had the gall to put it back to us and say, ‘Okay, the company has already said that if they’re forced to abide by these permit conditions they most likely will have to close down. How will Haisla feel when you guys are the ones to blame for this pulp mill shutting down, how will you explain that to your people that working inside Eurocan’.
“And we said, ‘Go ahead and do it, I’m pretty sure for the six people out of 500 working in Eurocan mill we can find other opportunities for them’. Six people, and you look at every industry in Haisla territory over the years it was always started by Haisla people but they were slowly squeezed out for one reason or another.
Promises of jobs
“It’s all based on promises that we’ll come in, we’ll give you employment, we won’t affect the environment, we’ll listen to your wishes. Basically saying whatever they could to get their project approved and then guess what, less than 10 years later we find out that it was all a lie; they just said what they could just to get that permit, their certificate, whatever it was.
“I was born in 1965 and by the time I was old enough to start joining the fishing party to go up the Kitimat River by 1975 it was starting to decline. It didn’t take long; it didn’t take long at all. Salmon weren’t far behind it. There’s a reason why that state-of-the-art hatchery was built right beside the Kitimat River not long after. There’s a reason for just about everything that happened to Haisla in the last 60 years and it’s all directly linked to industrial development.
“So instead of getting taught how to fish for oohlicans, how to process oohlicans, how to boil for oohlicans, how to collect the right wood for burning for the oolichan pot, how to skim the grease, how to bottle it, no, I’m taught how the government issued permits that took it all away.”
In 2010, West Fraser shut the Eurocan mill, killed 500 jobs in Kitimat and walked away, leaving their mess in Kitimat for the current and future generations, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike to deal with. That is the deathly hallow of the invisible hand.
On January 12, 2012 , in Terrace, Chief Counsellor Don Roberts, of the Kitsumkalum First Nation appeared before the Joint Review Panel. In wide ranging testimony Roberts also spoke about the his First Nation’s concerns about the oolichan:
“The oolichans are from the Bering Sea, that’s where they come from. The food chain that they’re feeding up there is not researched. We’re not up there. But they feed something — they probably feed that same fish that’s migrating in here.
“The oolichan then come across the north end of Haida Gwaii and enter the coastal rivers.
“About six weeks ago, I heard on CBC they were talking with the elders
over Haida Gwaii. The pod of killer whales that never went south, they’re wondering
why. But a pod, about 40, with a bunch of pups, what they’re doing is feeding on that herring. They’re feeding on the oolichan.
He described about how after leaving Haida Gwaii. the oolichan come out of Grenville Channel and enter the Skeena River.
“This is where the oolichan hang out…This is a hundred fathom area, and they hang off [this] drop-off there, 100 fathoms, and they start moving in there in November and they just hang around there. They come from the Hecate Strait.
“Right now, we are in January. They’re still down in here yet. Probably if you go down there you’ll start seeing the life activity around there because the fish got to hold out there until the eggs are ripe and they start getting used to the [reduced] salinity in the water. Because way out in the ocean there, it’s almost 100 percent salinity…they’ll hold out here all of February, then move in.”
(The oolichan are in a zone where the fresh water from the rivers reduces the salinity of the ocean. This is where the oolichan adjust before moving inland, up river)
“In Grenville Channel, there is clam and cockle digging is from mid-October to March. The clams and cockles food harvest is always eaten with oolichan grease.
“Again, we are showing the importance of oolichan. It’s used as a main part of our culture. It’s used in everything…we eat it with salmon berries, now we’re eating it with the seaweed back then and the clams; every dish.
At the mouth of the Skeena, “all the Chinook salmon are all in there but they all migrate in there. Everything that hits the Skeena all comes in here. All these tributaries all feed in salmon. The oolichans come in these deep channels and they start feeding into the Skeena. All the cods and all the halibut, everything comes in there, everything.
“When the oohlicans come in you can go down there and the halibut are there. And if you go there they’re [the oolichan] not there, you’ve got to dig really hard to get a halibut this time of the year. And after the oohlicans make their run in then you go out there again and they’re there.
“There’s the the sea prunes. I don’t know what Canada calls it, but that’s what we call it. They grow all along form Chatham Sound to Hecate Strait. It’s a delicacy. You pick it, you steam it, you peel that black off, the cells, the spine, and you dip it in oolichan grease and soya sauce, and you’ve got a dish.”
Roberts showed a map to the Joint Review Panel. “This is the map that the government showed us where the pipeline is going to run — the steamships are going to run, Enbridge. Kitimat all the way up there, come down, propose to go down here or propose to go out here. But all this area I’ve been talking about, there’s a — there’s the Skeena River right there. They [the oil tankers] just run right by it.
“All the halibut grounds are out here, right around all out there, you’re running right over it. All the seaweed grounds are all right there, all the way down here for the other Bands. All the way down. Abalone, the sea cucumbers, and the oolichan come right through there, the head of the food chain.”
That is the danger that First Nations and others fear, the destruction of the northwestern food chain.
This weekend, the distinguished aboriginal artist, Roy Henry Vickers, originally from Kitkatla, near Hazelton, now based in Campbell River, a member of the Order of Canada and Order of British Columbia, recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee medal, whose work has been Canada’s gift to world leaders including Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, and can be seen at Vancouver International Airport, publicly issued a poster, free for reproduction: “Oolichan Oil, not Alberta Oil.”
Since the declaration that the oolichan are an endangered species, those of aware of the issue in British Columbia have waited to see if the government of Stephen Harper will do anything, anything at all, to restore the oolichan stocks. After all, oolichan sustained the oil economy of British Columbia for at least two millenia, probably more.
Harper has not only done absolutely nothing about the oolichan, his government is ordering even more drastic cuts to the staff and resources of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans along the British Columbia coast. (The BC government also has some responsibilities for the oolichan as well since they divide their time between the ocean, which is federal, and the rivers which, except for the salmon, are provincial jurisdiction. The BC Liberals haven’t done anything either.)
The reason there is no trust for the Harper government in northwestern British Columbia, even among many northwestern conservatives, is that northwestern British Columbia is ignored not only on the oolichan issue, but on halibut allocation, the export of raw logs, the possible danger of farmed Atlantic salmon in southern British Columbia to the wild stocks in the north, the cutbacks at DFO and the Coast Guard. It appears to many here that Stephen Harper is perfectly prepared to sacrifice northwestern British Columbia for the sole benefit of Alberta and the bitumen sands.
The decline of the forest industry, while on one hand devastating, at least for now, for the economy of British Columbia, is slowly beginning to restore some of the rivers to health.
Imagine if the rivers were fully restored, and the oolichan came back to the sustainable, harvestable, economic levels that drove the BC economy for up to 5,000 years.
Along with salmon, herring and halibut, an oolichan harvest would provide all of British Columbia, First Nations and the rest of the province, with many hundreds more on-going jobs than the miniscule handful of permanent jobs this province will get along the Northern Gateway Pipeline route. It’s an ideal hope, of course, but an oolichan harvest would provide jobs and support the economy without the dangers of a major pipeline breach killing the river or an inevitable tanker accident, caused by human error (as all major shipping accidents are caused by human error) destroying the coast.
It appears that the Harper government is absolutely determined to put all of the Canadian economy in to one oily basket, the bitumen sands, and is refusing to consider any alternatives, especially any sustainable alternatives with the “green” label.
The great distances in northwestern BC mean people have to drive. The world economy will be dependent on petroleum for the time being and efforts to find viable, economic alternatives are mostly half hearted and sometimes even blocked for ideological reasons.
So, one has to be pessimistic. Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver and Peter Kent have made it crystal clear that the Northern Gateway pipeline will go ahead, no matter what and likely no matter what the Joint Review Panel says. So far in the hearings not a day has gone by without at least one witness telling the panel they believe the hearings are rigged in favour of Enbridge and the Conservative government.
The lesson for Alberta and Stephen Harper from the collapse of BC’s rich oolichan oil economy is that short sighted, blinkered thinking will lead inevitably to disaster. One has to wonder if Alberta cares whether there will be any petroleum left seven generations or seventy generations from now for all the non-burning uses such as petrochemicals and plastics.
Unfortunately, in sacrifice to the petro-economy and the deathly hallows of the invisible hand, the oolichan may actually go extinct, rather than creating a new, viable, oil-based economy for British Columbia.
Drake, Allen and Lyle Wilson, Eulachon A fish to cure humanity Vancouver, Museum Note No. 32, UBC Museum of Anthropology
Henley, Thom River of Mist, Journey of Dreams Rediscovery International Foundation, 2009
The Lake Babine Nation has issued a news release demanding an apology for the Gitxsan Treaty Office “for signing an agreement with Enbridge that could impact the Lake Babine
Nation’s lands and resources without first consulting with the Lake
The Lake Babine Nation is demanding an
apology from the Gitxsan Treaty Office (GTO) for signing an agreement
with Enbridge that could impact the Lake Babine Nation’s lands and
resources without first consulting with the Lake Babine Nation.
Chief Wilf Adam, speaking for the Lake Babine Nation states,
“The pipeline will not cross Gitxsan territory. They will not bear any
of the risks or the costs. It is us, along with the other Nations
through whose territories the tar sands oil will be transported, who
will suffer the consequences. It is us who stand to lose our resources,
our way of life. By supporting Enbridge the GTO has potentially
encouraged an infringement upon our Rights and Title. And they have done
so without any prior consultation.”
Chief Adam goes on to say, “The GTO has shown an incredible
disrespect for their neighbouring First Nations. The Lake Babine Nation
demands an immediate apology and a commitment to consult with us in the
It is also seeking a formal retraction and apology from the
Gitxsan Treaty Office for the statements their Chief Negotiator, Elmer
Derrick, gave to the media December 2. Mr. Derrick described five
streams that flow into Babine Lake, and the salmon they support, as, “an
important resource to the Gitxsan. He also said that the Gitxsan, “want
to be at the same table with Enbridge to have a say in how the pipeline
will be built”.
Chief Adam declares, “The streams, Babine Lake, and the
salmon resources they support, are all within the territory of the Lake
Babine Nation. These are the Lake Babine Nation’s resources, not the
Gitxsan Treaty Office’s. Neither Mr. Derrick, nor the GTO, has any right
to speak to anyone about our resources or the way that may be
The Lake Babine Nation demands a retraction of Mr. Derrick’s
statement and an apology from the Gitxsan Treaty Office for Mr.
Derrick’s remarks. Chief Adam continues, “People know I oppose the
Enbridge’s Gateway project. And I am appalled that the GTO would support
Enbridge at the expense of other First Nations. But this is not why I
am angry. I am angry because the GTO is encouraging resource development
on Lake Babine Nation’s territory, and has done so without any prior
consultation with our Nation.”
Chief Adam concluded by saying that, “The Enbridge pipeline
will come within 200 feet of my house. It won’t come within 50 miles of
Gitxsan territory. It is the Lake Babine Nation, along with many, many
others that will bear all the risks and costs, not the GTO.”
The Lake Babine Nation’s territory lies north of Highway 16,
stretching from east of Burns Lake to well west and north of Smithers.
It encompasses Babine Lake, the second largest sockeye producing system
in the Province. Salmon remains a vital contributor to the Lake Babine
Nation’s culture and economy. In 2011 the Lake Babine Nation’s
commercial fishery was the second largest sockeye fishery in British
Columbia producing almost 200,000 selectively harvested sockeye.
With a deadline fast approaching on a federal plan to reduce the number of fish allocated to Alaska halibut charter businesses and hand them over to commercial fishermen, a handful of state legislators say they are going to take a look at the issue. To date, the state has ignored a so-called “catch share plan” developed by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, an organization dominated by commercial fishing interests.
There is growing anger to the north of us in Alaska, over halibut allocation policies by the US National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. If Kitimat is the centre of opposition by the recreational halibut sector in British Columbia, in Alaska, much of the opposition is in the town of Homer.
Business members of the Homer Chamber of Commerce voted Sunday night in favor of a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service that asks for another look at how halibut are allocated…
Members request NMFS Catch Share Plan allocation to closely approximate the Guideline Harvest Level for Area 3A, the central Gulf of Alaska including Cook Inlet and Homer…
The Catch Share Plan proposal to reduce halibut take on chartered sport fishing boats is viewed as a measure that could damage the charter sport fishing industry in Homer as well as the town’s economy as a whole. That’s a problem for the whole town to deal with, since every bait shop, kayak rental and pottery shop is tied to it, business owners told the chamber….
“We have before us an issue that can break us,” said Jack Montgomery, owner of Rainbow Tours for the past 30 years. “This could tear our town apart.”
My quota has suffered substantial cuts over the last three years as a result of commercial legal halibut biomass decline, and the explosive unregulated growth of the halibut charter industry….Currently, based on 2011’s TAC I am legally able to harvest a little over half of what I had originally purchased, but I realize the resource is changing and the initial shares I bought were not a fixed amount. Fish stocks rise and fall just as our stock market does for a number of reasons and influences…..
Fisheries politics should not and should never be discussed by unqualified, uneducated members of a biased Chamber at the city level. The issues that are at the forefront of this discussion are not city issues; they are federal and they are international and there are two perfectly capable, if not perfect, agencies that do deal directly with the issues at the forefront of this debate – the International Pacific Halibut Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service…. here is a reason for the Catch Sharing Plan that goes above and beyond what you and I know about the halibut stocks on an international level, not just what goes on in Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay at the end of a fishing pole.
The same high tech that lets your smart phone or tablet know the screen should be horizontal or vertical may help the commission, responsible for the conservation of halibut from the Bering Sea along the Alaska and BC coasts all the way to California, track the migration of the valuable and possibly threatened groundfish.
Commission scientists have tagged 30 halibut in areas 3A (roughly the Gulf of Alaska) and 2C (the Alaska panhandle north from the Canadian border) with a combination of external electronic “backpack tags” and electronic internal “gut tags”
The IPHC says the backpack tag is a black plastic cylinder that measures ~3″ (7.6 cm) long by ½” (1.2 cm) in diameter, It is attached to the dark side of the fish, below the dorsal fin, using a green-coated tagging wire, with a white backing plate that rests on the underside of the fish. Gut tags are surgically implanted in the gut cavity, but have a translucent green stalk that protrudes from the belly on the fish’s dark side. The stalk is made of Teflon, and contains sensors that record ambient light levels.
The commission says the purpose of the study is to examine whether geomagnetism can be used as a means of tracking halibut migrations.
The tags record the local magnetic field in ways that can be converted into location estimates, based on the strength of the magnetic field and magnetic declination angle in relation to the poles (which gets steeper closer to the poles) in combination with depth and light data. The “the pitch and roll detectors” in the phones and tablets that can also track the “the rolling bead in the maze game” do all the calculations needed to track the fish tag.
Since the halibut feeds on the relatively horizontal bottom of the ocean, the angle of the earth’s crust in relation to the poles should be able to track the migration without the use of GPS which cannot penetrate the ocean depths.
All data is recorded in the tag’s memory and can be retrieved if the fish is harvested. There is enough memory and battery capacity that the data can be recorded every 30 seconds for up to seven years. The IPHC is offering a $500 reward to fishers who may catch the halibut to return both tags.
If the pilot project is successful, the IPHC will tag another 2,000 halibut along the coast from Oregon to the US-Russia border in the Aleutians.
Environment Fishery Originally posted Aug 23, 2011 1:15 PT Updated Aug. 23, 2011, 2104 PT.
.Just after noon on August 22, 2011, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans quietly announced that the it was closing the Pacific region recreational halibut fishery as of midnight Sept. 5, 2011 cutting off charter, lodge and recreational anglers from the fishery.
The commercial halibut fishery will continue, as planned, until November 18, 2011.
At the same time, DFO continued the highly controversial program of allowing those recreational fishers who can afford it to “‘lease” quota from the commercial fishery.
Throughout the 2011 recreational halibut fishing season, the Department has reviewed in-season monthly catch estimates for the recreational halibut fishery. Catch information indicates that the recreational share of the Total Allowable Catch will be achieved in August. Therefore, recreational fishing for halibut under the BC tidal water licence will close effective 23:59 hours September 5, 2011 for the balance of the year. 2012 management actions will be developed this fall and announcements will be made in early 2012. Variation Order 2011 – 404 is in effect
DFO did not issue a news release on the closure and the opportunity to
lease, instead only posting the notices on the official notices to
fishery site. That meant that many recreational fishers did not learn
about the closure until the story broke in the British Columbia news
media almost 24 hours later.
It is the earliest date that the recreational halibut fishery has been closed. Last year, the recreational halibut fishery closed on October 18.
Although the total halibut biomass is considered healthy over the long term, the stocks are low at the moment, probably due the lifecycle of the fish, and most of the existing stock is usually too small for harvest.
An internal memo from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, dated Sept. 1, 2010, obtained by Northwest Coast Energy News under the Access to Information, outlined three possible closure dates for the recreational halibut fishery in 2010.
The memo gave the deputy minister three options for that year, September 1, October 1 and “no closure” which would mean that the closure would have come on the traditional date of December 1.
The documents predict the consequences for the recreational fishery if it was closed on Sept. 1, 2010 consequences that are likely to happen this year.
“An end of August closure does not allow time for the recreational community to make contingency plans or to inform clients in a timely manner,” a problem that recreational fishers and charter operators have been predicting since the protest meetings last winter.
Since 2003, the Canadian halibut harvest has been divided between the commercial fishery, which gets 88 per cent and the recreational fishery, which includes lodges, charters and individual anglers at 12 per cent. The recreational fishery has disputed that division since it began. The recreational halibut fishery has generally exceeded its quota for the past few years.
Thus the DFO memo says that: “Closing the recreational fishery at the end of August would reduce the potential recreational fishery overage significantly. This would assist in Canada’s commitment to managing within the TAC” (the total allowable catch set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission which sets catch limits for the Pacific US states, British Columbia and Alaska)
The DFO memo adds that an end of August closure would: “Although the recreational fishing community has been advised of a possible in-season closures, there will be significant economic impacts in the fishery and there are concerns about the regular sports fishermen who continue to fish in the latter part of the year.”
A study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute is warning that mollusks, especially oysters and mussels, are increasingly vulnerable to the acidification of the oceans caused by rising carbon dioxide emissions.
As CO2 levels driven by fossil fuel use have increased in the atmosphere
since the Industrial Revolution, so has the amount of CO2 absorbed by
the world’s oceans, leading to changes in the chemical make-up of
seawater. Known as ocean acidification, this decrease in pH creates a
corrosive environment for some marine organisms such as corals, marine
plankton, and shellfish that build carbonate shells or skeletons
The new study, which was published online July 7, 2011, by the journal Fish and Fisheries, assesses each country’s vulnerability to decreases in mollusk harvests caused by ocean acidification.
It appears, that the higher latitudes, which would include the northwest coast, are, for the moment, at lower risk than tropical regions.
The news release goes on to say:
In order to assess each nation’s vulnerability, researchers examined several dependence factors: current mollusk production, consumption and export; the percentage of the population that depends on mollusks for their protein; projected population growth; and current and future aquaculture capacity.
Using surface ocean chemistry forecasts from a coupled climate-ocean model, researchers also identified each nation’s “transition decade,” or when future ocean chemistry will distinctly differ from that of 2010, and current mollusk harvest levels cannot be guaranteed. These changes are expected to occur during the next 10 to 50 years, with lower latitude countries seeing impacts sooner. Higher latitude regions have more variability, and organisms there may be more tolerant to changing conditions.
The author of the study, Sarah Cooley, says, “”Mollusks are the clearest link we have at this point,” Cooley said. “As ocean acidification responses of fin fish become more apparent, and as we learn more about the biological relationships between mollusks and other animals, then we can start zeroing in on how non-mollusk fisheries can also be affected.”
Editor’s note: With this entry, Northwest Coast Energy News launches its planned expansion of coverage from energy and energy related environment issues to include other environmental and related issues in the northwest, including fishery issues.
For the past year, anglers, guides and outfitters on the British Columbia coast have been concerned about the allocation problems with the halibut fishery, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans sticking to the original quota system of 88 per cent of the total allowable catch going to the commercial fishery and 12 per cent to the recreational fishery, which includes both recreational anglers and the tourist industry.
There have been parallel problems in the state of Alaska, where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which governs the US fishery, began moves to take away the licences from many of the halibut charter operators on the lower end of the income scale. That move is currently being challenged in a federal court in Washington, DC.
On Thursday, NOAA proposed solutions to Alaska halibut dispute, in effect, handing the hot potato decision on halibut allocationover to the International Pacifc Halibut Commission, suggesting that the Commission decide the split for charter and commercial allocation when making the overall decision on total allowable catch. NOAA has also proposed allowing Alaska halibut charter operators to buy commercial quota, similar to the Canadian proposal from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last winter.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission, through which the United
States and Canada jointly manage the halibut resource from California to
the Bering Sea, would determine total commercial and charter catch
limits for southeast Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska each year
before the fishing season….
Allocations to the charter and commercial sectors would vary with changes in the number of halibut available for harvest as determined by the best available science.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission would
divide the annual combined catch limits into separate annual catch limits for the commercial and guided sport fisheries. The CSP (catch sharing plan) allocates a fixed percentage of the annual combined catch limit to the guided sport and commercial fisheries. The fixed percentage allocation to each sector varies with halibut abundance. The IPHC would multiply the CSP allocation percentages for each area by the annual combined catch limit to calculate the commercial and guided sport catch limits in net pounds. At moderate to low levels of halibut abundance, the CSP could provide the guided sport sector with a smaller poundage catch limit than it would have received under the GHL (guideline harvest levels) program. Conversely, at higher levels of abundance, the CSP could provide the guided sport sector with a larger poundage catch limit than it would have received under the GHL program.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council intended the CSP sector allocations to balance the needs of the guided sport and commercial sectors at all levels of halibut abundance.
Although the CSP allocation method is a significant change from the current allocation method under the GHL, National Marine Fisheries Service believes that the allocation under the CSP provides a more equitable management response
On the issue of buying commercial quota, the NOAA release says:
The catch sharing plan would authorize transfers of commercial halibut individual fishing quota to charter halibut permit holders for harvest by anglers in the charter halibut fishery.
Those transfers would offer charter vessel anglers in southeastern Alaska and the central Gulf of Alaska an opportunity to catch additional halibut, up to specified limits.
The news release goes on to say:
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended the rule to
establish a clear allocation between the commercial and charter sectors
that fish in these areas.
Currently, the commercial and charter halibut fisheries are managed
under different programs. The commercial halibut fishery has been
managed under a catch limit program since 1995. The charter halibut
sector has been managed under a different harvest guideline since 2003,
which gives charter fishermen a number of fish they can catch per guided
angler per day, but does not ensure the overall catch stays within a
definitive catch limit.
The proposed catch sharing plan, which is scheduled to be in place by
2012, is designed to foster a sustainable fishery by preventing
overharvesting of halibut and would introduce provisions that provide
flexibility for charter and commercial fishermen.
Those who wish to comment on the draft policy must respond before September 6.