Steelhead Failure on the Islands East Coast - Fly Fishing Forum
Pacific Northwest Sea Run Forum No such thing as rainbow trout, only landlocked steelhead

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Rate Thread Display Modes
  #1  
Old 10-08-2004, 12:33 PM
North Island's Avatar
North Island North Island is offline
just say no to bait
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: vancouver island north
Posts: 253
Steelhead Failure on the Islands East Coast

Very sad news was brought to my attention the other night. I sat and listened while a provincial gov. employee talked to us about the Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection's (MWLAP) view of the state of Steelhead on the Island. Once our Rivers like the Qualicum, Englishman, Puntledge, Campbell, were home to steelhead runs numbering in the hi hundreds for both the summer and winter runs now returns have been reduced between 10 and 20 fish. This is not news on its own it has been well known that since 1997 returns have been crashing at an alarming rate.

MWLAP have been dilligent in trying to rebuild these stocks. The Living Gene Bank program (LGB) was created to preserve fish with correct genetic material for each specific river, They were then captively breed withe the offspring being raised to smolt size and released into the river system which they are native.

THis program has been run for the last 5 years. Unfortunately the steelhead never returned! In fact the runs have contiued to decrease. The numbers of fish have gotten so small that MWLAP feels they are no longer biologically viable. That is to say that there are not enough fish returning to the river to repopulate the run even if return rates were incredibly successful. The point of no return. Ocean conditions have been cited as the cause for this failure.

At this time MWLAP feels that they money spent on steelhead would be better spent on something more productive. The point of our gathering the other evening was to discuss an "exit Stratagy" for the ministry. The one being suggested is that they take all the LGB fish and outplant them in their home rivers and let do their thing whatever that may be. Most likely these fish will spawn and go to sea or residualize . This program will last 3-4 years before the brood stock runs out. In the mean time we can design a limited fishery around them. (somewhat repugnent imo)

In the light of this latest round of bad news I feel the need is mor pressing than ever tto identify the limiting factors in ocean survival and make steps to set them right. Could the situation on the Island be an indicator for the Pueget (sp) sound rivers or the Columbia Tribs?
__________________
Cheers N I

Last edited by North Island; 10-08-2004 at 12:35 PM.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
  #2  
Old 10-08-2004, 01:17 PM
sinktip's Avatar
sinktip sinktip is offline
Chief of E.P.
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: All S-Rivers Above the Equator
Posts: 1,456
NI,

This is very, very sad news. Thank you for passing it on.

sinktip
__________________
There is no substitute for time on the water.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #3  
Old 10-08-2004, 01:34 PM
juro's Avatar
juro juro is offline
Coast2coast Flyfishaholic
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Steelhead country|striper coast|bonefish belt
Posts: 20,593
Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Did they explain the rationale in keeping a fishery open when the runs are on the brink?
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #4  
Old 10-08-2004, 03:37 PM
North Island's Avatar
North Island North Island is offline
just say no to bait
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: vancouver island north
Posts: 253
Hey All

To this date there has been no fishery. However the rationale goes something like this (and to some exrent I buy into it) Hatchery fish are produced with public money therefore the public should have access to them and they are man made resource.
__________________
Cheers N I
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #5  
Old 10-08-2004, 03:50 PM
Big K1's Avatar
Big K1 Big K1 is offline
Make it a double!
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Snoqualmie, Skykomish.
Posts: 275
NI,

Very depressing to say the least. Thanks for the info.
__________________
Kevin

Click here for cool art from the NW
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #6  
Old 10-08-2004, 04:23 PM
OC OC is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: I've lost them all but I'm looking for new ones
Posts: 1,368
Very sorry to hear this also.

I'm very concerned about the use of ocean conditions. The powers that be for what ever reason find it so easy to use because, "we can't do nothing about ocea conditions". Not saying that ocean conditions don't play a part they certainly do. But we have had good to excellent ocean conditions for close to 6 years now in our part of the world. How are the steelhead doing on the West side of the Island?

We have logging, over developement and many other things making it hard for steelhead to come back or spawn in the numbers needed. But we have always had these problems including ocean conditions, hell logging in past practices were far worse than today. Remember they would scower river bottoms when floating logs down river and there still were fish. Even our bays were more polluted than today. It's time to really find out what is going on and I would like to start with industrial aqua culture. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the fish on Vancouver Island really start to decline at about the same time with the increase in aqua culture. Yes I know the numbers were down years ago but they did come back to healthy numbers for years. May be totally wrong on this but I have a funny feeling on this one when it comes to the last ten years or so of decline of steelhead. I know Howzer has some info on this or knows where to find it. Anyone else.

Ocean conditions are an easy excuse, don't allow yourself to fall into that belief. It is the easy way out!
__________________
OC
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #7  
Old 10-08-2004, 04:52 PM
mattzoid's Avatar
mattzoid mattzoid is offline
Registered Spey Offender
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Any body of water flowing to the Pacific
Posts: 392
This is sad. I feel that this is an Omen. I think it will take the resources of both the US and Canada to stop the inevitable. If it can be stopped.
__________________
Spey casters do it with longer rods

Matt Burke
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #8  
Old 10-08-2004, 05:06 PM
flytyer flytyer is offline
Pullin' Thread
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: NW Washington
Posts: 3,346
Very sad indeed. Especially the Fisheries Ministry wanting to simply walk away from the problem and let the fish become extinct. It wasn't very few years ago that these rivers had good runs and it sounds like the "protectors of the fish" don't really care what happens to them.

I also find myself having a hard time accepting ocean conditions as the major or sole cause of this alarming decline. Like OC, I strongly suspect the fish farming operations in Georgia Strait, and I highly doubt the BC Fisheries Ministry will even mention fish farms because afterall, they provide "living wage" jobs to small towns. Seems to me I'e read that Ireland, Scottland, and Norway experienced similar declines in salmon after aqua culture was instituted.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #9  
Old 10-08-2004, 07:22 PM
Whistler's Avatar
Whistler Whistler is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Squamish / Lilloett / Bulkley / Thompson
Posts: 166
If it looks like a duck, walks like duck....
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #10  
Old 10-08-2004, 10:04 PM
south island south island is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: cowy, gold, van isle beaches
Posts: 5
I agree this is sad news. I myself whom detest the salmon farms have spoken to the boys at steelhead recovery and they feel that the farms are not a major problem in that the age and size of the outgoing smolts, and the incredible speed that they leave the straight on there way to the pacific. Something like 1 week from leaving the river to be in the charlottes. How can ocean conditions be to blame when some steelhead runs and salmon runs are doing so well? Some thought is that steelhead from each individual river have a unique migration route and reside in a certain part of the open ocean. Some thought is that steelhead from rivers in proximity to each other may share a common feeding ground in the open ocean thus explaining the common link to the east coast van isle's decline.Radio tagging is currently being done to help understand these things. However I heard an unconfirmed rumour that the U.S. navy was wanting to stop the use of the tacking bouys in the open ocean because of security concerns? Also I guess the failure of the living gene bank program while it's interest 's were genuine is just another example of the failure of hatchery raised fish. It is to bad that those few remaining wild fish had to be taken out of the gene pool.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #11  
Old 10-08-2004, 10:29 PM
North Island's Avatar
North Island North Island is offline
just say no to bait
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: vancouver island north
Posts: 253
OC

STeelhead populations on the west side were doing OK until this year. The Gold, Gordon, Megin were all dramatically down. It's hard to get a straight answer on the Stamp. There is alot of vested interests in good news reporting on that system and I don't spend enough time on ot to be "in the Know"

I would think that aqua culture would be included in the term "ocean conditions" When asked about aqua culture and its effects MWLAP employees will not say anything that can be construed as a liability or condemnation

Some won't let the issue be glossed over, but apathy is growing.
__________________
Cheers N I
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #12  
Old 10-09-2004, 08:34 AM
Whistler's Avatar
Whistler Whistler is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Squamish / Lilloett / Bulkley / Thompson
Posts: 166
This is an issue that I feel very strongly about and it is not nearly as complex as it is made out to be. The farms provide year round hosts for the lice in an inshore area that juvenile Salmon and Steelhead must travel through. Lice are naturally occuring and are normally brought in from the high seas by returning fish.Luckily their life span is such that without a host they die within 4-20 days depending on water temp. The farm issue is not understood too well by the general public-most people think the biggest threat they pose is escapees colonizing. Here's a scary thought in a discussion on another board a profarm guy referred me to a site with a variety of pro farm propaganda. Among this was a news release put out by the BC Provincial Ministry of Fisheries(can't recall exact title) saying what a good job the farms in the Broughton were doing as their lice average was VERY LOW at just 4 mobile lice per fish during a sample taken in April. Now if this is a LOW I am scared to know how bad it can be at it's worst. The pro farming camp is quick to point out that there is "no proven link between the farms and the lice" and that they are naturally occurring. What most people don't understand is that without the farms there would be no inshore host for these fish on a year round basis. The fact that such lice counts exist on the farms is clear proof that these potential hosts(farmed Atlantics) are being utilized. The newly hatched lice form clouds near the surface looking for a host to attach themselves to. Steelhead are particularily at risk fdue to their preference for top water travel, Pinks are succeptable due to their small size at outmigration. This is a fairly new industry for us here in BC and I think it is no coincidence that the collapse of our east coast Vancouver Island and southcoast mainland Steelhead stocks has followed shortly after the introduction of fish farms. As well most systems north of the farms(ie-Skeena) have not experienced this collapse. If ocean conditions were to blame shouldn't it be even across the board? This is a topic I have been very passionate about for a few years now and I have had many discussions with people from DFO and BC Environment. Off the record you can have a regular discussion-on the record or in front of a group not a chance. These fellows know what is at stake-their jobs(seriously I have been told this!). DFO is for the farming as is our provincial government. Biologists have been warned that since there is "no proven link to the farms and Steelhead declines" fear mongering as such will not be tolerated. I know an activist who was fairly high profile early on who claims corruption on this issue runs down from the highest level. While this is not my view I can say that this guy is laying low ever since he was threatened. Point being this is an issue that is going to take ALL of our efforts from both sides of the border if there is to be any type of reform. Personally I would love to see a 5 year moratorium on new farms until more research can be done. I think this is a very reasonable goal. As well there are very simple steps that can be undertaken to make the existing farms more environmentally friendly. Laying fallow, for example, during the period up to and including Steelhead outmigration would one proven example. Of course the farmers don't think too much of this option due to it's expense.This is an issue that sports,commercial and First Nations can all work together on. I am particularily freaked out now that large scale aquaculture has come to the mouth of the Skeena. Please do all that you can to educate yourselves on what is going on and pass it on to whoever will listen. I strongly believe this is the biggest threat that all of our wild Steelhead stocks have. As mentioned, while the lice issue isn't that complex, it is largely misunderstood-especially amongst the general public who doesn't fish. This really sucks and will get worse as many more farms are planned. Hopefully we can do something.

Brian

Last edited by Whistler; 10-09-2004 at 09:17 AM.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #13  
Old 10-09-2004, 10:09 AM
Smalma Smalma is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 168
Another distressing report in a long string of bad news for the lower BC and Puget Sound steelhead populations.

While it seems popular to view the pointing to poor "ocean conditions" as a cop-out the reality is that steelhead smolt to adult survival in this region have been at all time lows since the late 1990s. Clearly the mortality is occurring outside of the river (the ocean).

OC - I have to disagree with your statement that we are having good to excellent ocean conditions; at least in my part of the steelhead world. Any look at the long term survival trends in the pacific it is clear that survival conditions go through cycles and those cycles are different in different part of the coast and between species. For example typically when we see good survival of steelhead, chinook and coho we see poor survival of pinks and chums. When conditions are good in Alaska for a species it is often poor further to the South. Here in my part of the world (North Puget Sound) recent steelhead survivals have been a fraction (10 to 20%) of that seen in the 1980s. The research on Keogh River shows the same (survival declining from 15% in the '80s to 3% or less). Chinook survival continues to well below the long term average and coho returns have been at below average levels. On the flip side chum and pink survivals have been exceptionally high.

While I feel it is clear that the ocean survival is what has triggered the crash of our steelhead freshwater conditions (habitat) have made it much more severe. When folks talk about salmon recovery and restoration the key factors are habitat capacity and productivity. It should be clear to all that with the exception of our wilderness systems our rivers aren't what they once were; that is they can not support the same numbers of fish they once did (lower capacity).

In this discussion the reduced productivity is likely even more important. Productivity is often measured at the number of returning adults a pair of spawners can produce at low populations levels. I don't have any figures at my finger tips for steelhead but for chinook in North Puget Sound modeling has estimated that typically our chinook populations historically had productivity of 15 to 20. Today dependent on the system that productivity is from barely 1 to only 4 or 5. What that means is that under poor conditions populations will fall faster, fall to lower levels, and take much long to recovery if conditions improve. In sure that the same mechanism applies to steelhead.

The result is that because what we have done to the habitat in our rivers that when we enter a down cycle of survival (naturally occurring) the effect on the population is magnified. The population crash will be more precipitous, will likely bottom out at a lower level, and may require an extended period of improved survival conditiosn for them to rebound.

While it should be clear to all that under such conditions any additional mortality from fishing would be a determent to the populations it is just as true that we can't stockpile fish from the good times. Bottom line is that we need to become better keepers of our rivers.

Tight lines
S malma
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #14  
Old 10-09-2004, 10:29 AM
Whistler's Avatar
Whistler Whistler is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Squamish / Lilloett / Bulkley / Thompson
Posts: 166
Hmmmm, anyone care to take a guess as to when the fish farms went in(hint:Loverboy was a pretty popular band). Oh what a coincidence just before the north Puget sound and southern BC Steelhead runs began to decline. Smalma, while I agree that we need to be better keepers of our rivers I suspect that the clear cut logging of days gone by aren't to blame for this sudden decline in Steelhead productivity. It is interesting to note though how habitat destruction has magnified this problem though I still think that aquaculture is mostly to blame for low Steelhead returns on both sides of the border. One thing else-it does seem that the rivers in closest proximity to the area with the highest density of farms(Broughton) are the hardest hit. Considering the decline since the 80's makes you wonder how many more years these runs can hang on for. Perhaps it won't be that long until we are all taking our Steelhead vacations in Ontario and New York?

Brian Niska
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
  #15  
Old 10-09-2004, 11:41 AM
Smalma Smalma is offline
Registered User
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 168
Whistler-
While I’m sure that the net pens have significant impacts on local fish populations and environment I believe that those impacts are largely (all?) local. The research I have seen has established that the sea-lice associated with the nets has had large impacts on pink salmon fry. The theory being that they are the smallest and less able to tolerate more than louse or two. It is also clear that pink populations near net pen sites have been impacted. However the data I have seen doesn’t seem to support your contention that they are responsible for the decline of everything in the Georgia Basin and Puget Sound. The pink escapements on the Snohomish River system (central Puget Sound) show a different story. The MSY escapement goal for the system is 120,000 pinks and the escapements from the mid 1950s until 1999 never exceeded 200,000 spawners. The 1999 escapement was 240,000, the 2001 was 1.1 million, and the 2003 was 1.4 million. With modern day record runs I find it difficult to believe that net pen fish are significantly impacting their survival; certainly the population is not in decline. Rather as I pointed in my previous posting it is now their time (good conditions) just as it is not our steelhead’s time.


Regarding potential impacts from net pens on steelhead (particularly Puget Sound steelhead). It is my understanding that the sea-lice infestations are pretty much confined to the local area of the net pens (that is the near shore areas). I have seen little evidence that steelhead smolts migrate or spend any significant time along our marine shorelines. A question for our sea-run cutthroat beach fishermen – how steelhead smolts do you catch incidental to the cutts? In my experience – hardly ever. In addition steelhead smolts are the largest of our anadromous smolts and thus would seem to be the least likely to be affected by sea lice.

Further evidence that the factor affecting our steelhead is off shore is the differential survival of summer and winter steelhead in Puget Sound. While the winter fish (both hatchery and wild) survivals since the late 1990s have been extremely poor the survival of the summers had remained constant. In fact in the case of at least one wild population (North Fork Stillaguamish Deer Creek summers) actual increased during that period. Both groups of fish leave the rivers at the same time and at about the same size. The limited information that is available indicates that they diverge in their migrations off-shore. It seem unlikely that a near-shore survival factor (in this case the net pens) would affect only one of the two groups of steelhead. The spawning counts in the spring 2004 further support this. We saw a nice jump in the numbers of winters (both hatchery and wild) and significant drop in the number of summers with their numbers being only 1/3 to ˝ of recent counts.

In short it is my belief that blaming past wild fish harvest and net pen impacts for the crash of our steelhead are red herrings that only serve to divert attention and energy from the real issues.

Tight lines
S malma
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the Fly Fishing Forum forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.
User Name:
If you do not want to register, fill this field only and the name will be used as user name for your post.
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.
Password:
Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.
Email Address:

Log-in

Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.



Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
East Coast/West Coast All Around The Continent: Sea Run Cutthroat Eric Pacific Northwest Sea Run Forum 1 06-27-2008 09:58 AM
Mold linked to Ulsers, lesions in East Coast Baitfish GregD Our Environment 0 04-13-2006 05:01 PM
East Coast Salmon/Stealheader coming to Portland blindcurvw Pacific Northwest Sea Run Forum 3 10-07-2005 12:30 PM
East Coast Buddies that ROCK! FrenchCreek Stripers and Coastal Gamefish 9 10-04-2005 10:52 AM


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 10:40 PM.



Copyright Flyfishingforum.com (All Rights Reserved)