when it comes to salmon — or salmon management… which are you?

This is from a fun blog: Indexed by Jessica Hagy.

I try to keep myself nearer the Skeptic – however a few too many meetings involving Fisheries and Oceans pulls me towards Cynic.


All day meeting, whereby DFO has put over $100 million to move commercial fisheries inland. Yet, on Fraser River sockeye, for example, there hasn’t been a commercial fishery of any kind in three years.

Moving fisheries inland is a good idea to avoid ocean mixed-stock fisheries that can’t discern between healthy and endangered runs. However, is it a little too late?

And where’s the investment in habitat restoration and rehabilitation?

6 thoughts on “when it comes to salmon — or salmon management… which are you?

  1. salmon guy Post author

    Thanks for the comments Keith.
    Main link is the PICFI program (Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative) http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/picfi-ipcip/index-eng.htm

    It’s actually a $175 million – 5 year initiative. It’s already in its third year (started 2007), and the number of outstanding questions in relation to this program are absurd. Regardless… a search through the DFO “Disclosure of Grants and and Contribution Awards over $25,000” (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/GCSC/reports_e.asp ) shows many of the payouts under this program. Some of the license retirement payouts are substantial – approaching the $1,000,000 mark. There are certainly some smaller ones $30-$50K.

    The thought being that as licenses are retired, the estimated catch from these licenses – and part of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) – could then be transferred to First Nation organizations – many of them based inland on the Fraser, Skeena, and potentially other watersheds like the Stikine, Taku, etc. Some programs have already begun.

    Here’s a quote from one of the objectives of the PICFI program – “Delivering Commercial Fisheries Access to First Nations”:

    The commercial fisheries access element of PICFI is intended to provide eligible First Nations with greater access to a diversity of commercial fishing opportunities that will support the development of First Nation commercial fisheries enterprises, for the benefit of communities. Specific objectives include:
    – Increasing BC First Nations’ participation in commercial fisheries coast-wide, including in-river commercial access to salmon for inland First Nations.


    I’m hearing one side of the story to this point – and I’ve asked: “how is the commercial industry taking this?”
    Haven’t got a clear answer yet.

    Have also asked: “how many licenses need to be retired for transfer of catch to be effective and sustainable?”
    No answer.

    Word is PICFI has retired 80 commercial licenses. Other DFO programs have retired about 160 or so. There’s still over 2000 out there.
    Not really going to matter if there’s no fish to fish….

    Blows me away that there are $175 million programs focusing on license retirements — and very few $$ focused on habitat restoration and rebuilding runs.

  2. kd

    Thanks for the info….I thought they had burned through all the PICFI money.
    Our group, and others, have a significant interest in this area. We are keen to see the northcoast gillnet fleet severely reduced or eventually phased out in order to move towards truly selective fisheries….whether that is via seiners or by using terminal locations upriver.
    On the northcoast there are about 650 gillnet licenses…but only about half get used in any year….(The other unsed ones must be paying the license fee just to hold onto their license in case of a buyout program.)
    I’ve been at some meetings with PICFI DFO guys…but I thought their focus was more on diversifying the fishermans catch opportunities… For example, assisting a salmon fisherman get into other species etc.
    At present market values (at least those advertised for sale) a gillnet license is worth about 60K….But after several poor seasons, including no fishing at all in Skeena last year, the price is probably very negotiable. To buyout all the northcoast gillnetters would only cost about 40 million dollars. Maybe there is some PICFI money left over for this.
    Switching to selective fishing would help solve alot of management issues on salmon, especially on steelhead and other depressed stocks.
    I would think there would be quite a few gillnetters on the northcoast looking for an ‘exit strategy’….but according to DFO recently any push for a license buyout program would have to come from the fishermen themselves.

  3. kd

    As for your unanswered questions….I can give my take on them:
    1. The commercial industry…at least the capture side of things…is probably split along ‘party lines’. There are gillnetters and seiners….and generally it seems the more independant, solitary gillnetters dont want things like ITQ’s or ‘catch shares’ or reform.
    I think overall the more business-like seiners are grudgingly moving towards using ITQ’s and slowing the fishery down in order to improve the quality of the product.
    As for moving catch anywhere else…allocation questions are always touchy subjects.

    “how many licenses need to be retired for transfer of catch to be effective and sustainable?”

    In Skeena I dont think it is a matter of numbers…we just need to reshape the fishery to selectivity and proceed on a more precautionary approach to catch. So by phasing out gillnetting, which is non-selective technology, and replacing the marine catch with selective seining only, this would help the bycatch issues with steelhead and depressed chum.
    By lowering the overall sockeye exploitation rates to much more conservative levels it would allow depressed wild sockeye the chance to recover.

    Habitat issues are very important obviously, but if we could reshape the Skeena fishery over the next 5 years it would be immeasurably beneficial for the fish.

    We cant ‘tinker’ with the existing system and expect major benefit…we need a fresh start.

  4. salmon guy Post author

    good discussion, thanks.
    No, PICFI is still alive and kicking. Sat in a meeting with the actual manager of the program the other day. Unfortunately, her presentation – or lack of – was terrible. Unprepared and appeared very un-informed. I’ll add one more “un” in there – quite unfortunate.

    A cynic might suggest that PICFI is largely a program to fund the coffers of DFO and keep people working; however, I like to try and remain a little more optimistic. Like the “graph” I posted the other day — more of a skeptic.

    One of the most unfortunate aspects that came through in the PICFI discussion was how unorganized the entire program is. So many questions fronted were left unanswered. A few things popped out of the meeting though. There is a significant push to some sort of shares-based program for salmon fisheries. Some of the senior staff at the meeting got prickly about the ITQ term (individual transferable quotas).

    “It’s not an ITQ system… however it’s not clear exactly how it will look…”

    DFO staff were also clear to point out that they need to buy way more licenses. My point to them, was that more than enough studies, inquiries, and so on have suggested that there are way too many licenses out there right now. Thus the thought of “retiring licenses” (they got very prickly about calling it a “buy-back program”) and then transferring that catch somewhere else – makes no sense to me. The fleet is already over-capitalized and unsustainable. Plus, for example, on Fraser sockeye there has been no commercial fishery for three years (hence the Cohen Commission).

    how long can folks hold those licenses? Jimmy Pattison (Canfisco) will have no problem; however mom-and-pop trollers and gill netters. Unlikely.

    I completely agree – the push needs to be to selective fishing.
    Selective fishing plus value-added processing. There is absolutely no way to compete with the Bristol Bay and other Alaskan fisheries where sockeye fetches 70 cents a pound and all other salmon a fraction of that. When Wal-Mart enters the scene that is not good news for anyone. And Wal-Marts relationship with the Marine Stewardship Council is also worrisome.

    What I find odd about all of this is the different tunes being sung in different meetings. The meetings I was in were geared towards First Nations and the tune there was: “yup, we’re looking to buy lots of licenses and get that catch transferred inland”.

    I’m doubtful that is the tune being sung at meetings with commercial fisherfolks.

  5. salmon guy Post author

    I agree – and I think lots of other do as well. We, hopefully, will start to see a huge shift in salmon discussions in coming years. The bottom line is that the negative trends that the western States have seen over the last few years are moving north. The situation for salmon is looking dismal – and most folks have a common interest to make sure local extinctions don’t continue.

    I think the reshaping is certainly coming – if anything, a result of runs too small to be viable, and far too many stocks of concern migrating with larger runs (e.g. Babine sockeye). And of course, many might suggest the commercial fishery as it was set up was never really all that viable with the amount of subsidies received – then add in the management costs of DFO…

    A fresh start – yes. The question certainly is whether the bureaucratic behemoth of DFO is capable of a fresh start. It sounds like their staff is putting lots of marbles in the Cohen Commission… or have at least been told to.

    thanks again for the comments. Really interesting to hear about the issues along the Skeena.

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