Yesterday, UFAWU-Unifor attended a Northern IHCP Subcommittee call to discuss commercial fishing plans for the 2022 North Coast salmon season.
Unsurprisingly, and to our disappointment, the call left more questions than answers. The information provided was unsatisfactory, but we hope it offers some background information in these confusing times.
As you are aware, last year the Fisheries Minister announced the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI), followed by a series of long-term closures (and little else). In 2022, these were changed to “longer-term closures.”
PSSI has added a second layer to the fisheries planning process whereby any fishery identified under PSSI for possible longer-term closures must be approved to open in the final IFMP by the Minister before regional planning can begin.
The fisheries identified for possible longer-term closures are listed in appendix 10 of the 2022 draft IFMP, and later in this bulletin.
The Skeena Tyee Test is tracking at its highest in 15 years. When pressed on if and when we could expect Skeena fisheries, North Coast managers informed us that this was a PSSI-level decision. They also said that they are waiting on the Minister to decide between two options: longer-term closures or mitigation measures.
The Minister is currently on vacation out of the country. There are rumours that she has already signed off on the IFMP but has neglected to release it to date. There is also no indication she has signed off on any potential fishery listed under PSSI/appendix 10.
Local managers have more freedom to proceed with fisheries not identified under PSSI/appendix 10 of the IFMP, such as Area 3 seine.
However, the direction given by the Minister’s office is that any fishery identified under PSSI is closed until the Minister says otherwise. This now includes Skeena sockeye, which was identified as a fishery of concern under PSSI for the 2022 season.
Salmon managers and commercial fishery representatives have pressed the importance of timely decisions but have been frustrated so far.
Mitigation measures protect stocks of concern returning at the same time as our target fishery. We know this because, after years of research, we have spent the past two decades successfully using them.
To determine and implement adequate mitigation measures, DFO must provide data on the current impact of the commercial fishery on stocks of concern. Commercial reps for NC & SC have not received these criteria and parameters, even after multiple requests and meetings.
At this point, there is no indication that DFO is including data for our current mitigation measures. There is also no indication they are able to work with us on what could be considered “increased mitigation measures,” in order to try and salvage fisheries for the 2022 season.
The PSSI long-term closure “options” are expected to last 5-10 years.
The list of regular commercial fisheries falling under PSSI rules is as follows (organized by license):
- Area F Troll: Central Coast Coho Demonstration Fishery, North Coast Mixed Stock Coho.
- Area H Troll: Fraser Sockeye.
- Area C Gillnet: Nass Sockeye, Skeena Sockeye (added for 2022), Skeena Chinook, Smith Inlet Sockeye, Rivers Inlet Sockeye, Area 8 chum, Haida Gwaii Pink, Haida Gwaii Chum.
- Area D Gillnet: Johnson Strait Mix Stock Chum, Fraser Sockeye, Barkley Wild Chum, Clayoquot Wild Chum.
- Area E Gillnet: Fraser Chum, Fraser Sockeye, Fraser Chinook, Nitinat Chum.
- Area A Seine: Skeena Sockeye, Area 8 Chum.
- Area B Seine: Nitinat Chum, Fraser Sockeye.
NOTE: This list is not comprehensive. Many demonstration fisheries that do not proceed under a regular commercial license are also at risk of potential long-term closures. The southern closures were included here for information purposes despite this being a northern bulletin. They are found in appendix 8 of the draft southern salmon IFMP.
Skeena sockeye has a qualitative run estimate of “average” with a current estimate of 2.05 million returning.
The Tyee test sets are performing well and there is anecdotal evidence that FSC fishermen in the region are having great fishing.
Despite this, there will be no Skeena commercial openings unless the Minister allows it since it is a PSSI-identified fishery.
The outlook for the Nass is more tentative. DFO has said it is still too early to determine whether there is a fishable abundance. The water levels in the river are very high, so the fish wheels are unable to get a good estimate of returns.
Without any fisheries proceeding to date, there is very little information to make informed decisions.