A Decision and a Derby

Last Friday, June 17, DFO announced the results from the Albion test fishery in the lower Fraser River, with the department now forecasting a run-size of 45,000 or less chinook of the age-5 stream-type Spring and Summer run stock aggregate this year. In last week’s column I referenced what is called the “expansion factor”, a major element in the management model for this stock of concern, which in this example is 17 = 43,000. The first number is the actual catch at Albion by June 11, the second number is the approximate return forecast developed from the model – quite an expansion factor!

What this means is that 43,000 fish places the forecast in the lowest tier of the three zone abundance model and so all fisheries that will measurably impact this stock of concern will be managed under previously developed Zone 1 restrictions. For the marine recreational fishery these are detailed in Fishery Notices 0534 and 0536, available on the department’s website.

Regrettable as the fairly low run-size forecast is, just below the Zone 1/2 break point of 45,000 fish, the good news is that DFO appears to have declined to implement the no salmon fishing regulation for May, June and July proposed by First Nations and environmental NGO’s for the recreational fishery in the chinook conservation corridor around the southern end of Vancouver Island eastward from Sombrio Point and on to the mouth of the Fraser River itself.

The prospect of this closure was understandably of enormous concern in the Victoria area and even though the finalized Salmon Integrated Fishery Management Plan (IFMP) hasn’t yet been released it seems improbable it would overturn the recently announced local management decisions. Because the IFMP requires ministerial sign-off, the resignation a short while ago of Hunter Tootoo as minister has doubtless delayed numerous decisions relating to this.

In the lower Fraser River itself, from the Hell’s Gate canyon downstream, recreational salmon fishing will remain closed until the end of July. This really means no salmon fishing, not non-retention, with even catch and release fishing now prohibited for the first seven months of the year. Considering that not so long ago the fishery opened on May 1st this must be a considerable economic hit to the area fishery infrastructure and a situation that won’t change until this chinook stock of concern gets back to a consistent and higher level of abundance.

In closing on this topic, it should be noted that since the final abundance update from DFO and its management decisions last week there has been quite an increase in the number of chinook encountered each day in the Albion test fishery, frequently 3 or 4 per day. One can only hope that the majority of the run was a little later than usual and that the overall return will in fact exceed the forecast, an important step in the rebuilding process.

Switching topics, on June 11 the Royal LePage Salmon Derby in Campbell River took place and it was a great success – weather, participation, number and size of fish, the whole nine yards. Over 700 anglers registered to fish (at $40 each) and more than 70 chinook salmon were weighed in. The top ten fish were all over 20 pounds in weight, with the biggest at 28lbs 10oz. and a couple of 26 pounders in second and third place.

Only those fish caught in Area 13 were eligible for the competition and several came to the weigh-in station from elsewhere, suggesting that some entrants either didn’t read the rules or they didn’t know which fisheries management area they were fishing in, which is a bit of a concern – other than that things went off really well. Not surprisingly most of the effort and landed catch occurred around the south end of Quadra Island, from the Cape Mudge lighthouse out to the Hump and across to the Green Can/ Francisco Point area. Several top ten finishers, including the largest fish, were caught elsewhere in the lower straits and one fish came from Bute Inlet, quite a hike on a day trip!

Hopefully this will become an annual early summer event – congratulation to the organizers and all those who contributed one way or another to making this derby such a success. At the time of writing the amount raised for the two charitable organizations – the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation and the Campbell River Salmon Foundation – isn’t known but I’m confident that it will be more than either expected to receive. Bravo!