Keep’n the Dean dilemma current. Management shortfalls and the official response.

November 21, 2013


I received an email the other day about keeping the Dean issue current…. even in depths of winter. I couldn’t agree more. Next year, another cycle of overfishing will polarize area 8 throughout the summer and the responsibility lies with the angling community to be prepared before it starts.

At the bottom is a form letter from Gail Shea, the Federal Minister of Fisheries responding to concerns about the commercial fishery in area 8. Please notice that her explanation of the sustainability of the chum commercial fishery in Area 8 lacks any sort of understanding of the area or of fisheries policy. This is hardly a surprise… her experience…

Prior to her election to the House of Commons, Ms. Shea was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island. She was first elected in April 2000 and was appointed to the provincial cabinet as Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs where she was responsible for the Status of Women, the Worker’s Compensation Board and the Island Waste Management Corporation. From 2002 to 2007, Ms. Shea served as Minister of Transportation and Public Works.”

In the letter, the ultimate justification for the massive openings in area 8 were the excess hatchery fish. However the fishery from area 8-1 to 8-8 also targeted small, threatened completely wild chum stocks that would have been largely avoided had the commercial fishery just been moved into Labouchere Channel (starting at 8-10) passed the turn off into Dean Channel (8-8).


This is the real issue with commercial fisheries in this province. The commercial sector is meant to fish in times of surplus while trying to maintain the #1 DFO mandate…. fish conservation. This can only be maintained in a commercial fishery by fishing closer to the source.

I heard it equated to a police officer looking for a bad guy. He knows he must shoot to kill. He knows the bad guys room is at the end of the hall. Instead of waiting for the man to motion for the door at the end of the hall, he shoots every person that enters the hallway.

If you know the fish in excess are Bella Coola chum it makes sense to fish adjacent to the the Bella Coola and not 100 kilometers away, no?

….letter from Gail Shea…

Thank you for your correspondence of August 2 and 13, 2013, regarding your concerns about commercial salmon fisheries and the bycatch of steelhead in Dean Channel.

For salmon management, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is guided by Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon for the protection, preservation and rebuilding of wild salmon and their marine and freshwater ecosystems for the benefit of all Canadians.

DFO carefully designs fisheries plans to avoid or minimize impacts on weaker stocks while providing benefits to Canadians through the sustainable harvest of more abundant salmon stocks.  Integrated Fisheries Management Plans (IFMPs) for salmon are prepared each year to identify fishing opportunities and constraints for the coming season based on DFO scientific analysis of environmental conditions and stock assessment.

The Department adopts a cautious approach to harvesting opportunities to ensure that conservation objectives are met.  The Salmon Northern B.C. IFMP contains information on conservation objectives and decision rules for managing fisheries under variable abundance levels, and provides clarity on how the Allocation Policy for Pacific Salmon is applied.  The Salmon Northern B.C. IFMP is available online at < >.

The Department’s precautionary management approach of limiting commercial, recreational and First Nation salmon harvests is designed to not only conserve salmon stocks in British Columbia, but also to support the process of rebuilding them.  Fisheries are managed to provide sufficient numbers of salmon to spawn in our rivers and to sustain them for the future.

For steelhead, the Department works with the Province of British Columbia to manage steelhead under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU); the current approach for managing fisheries that impact steelhead was developed jointly by DFO and the Province.  The Department’s management approach, based on the objectives of the MOU, is to minimize the impact on steelhead during Canadian fisheries directed at more abundant salmon populations.

In 2013, the chum gillnet fishery was targeting strong returns of Bella Coola chum in Area 8 and averaged two days of fishing per week for the months of July and August.  This activity level is below the historic average fishing pattern.  The Dean Channel gillnet fishery effort was less than 10 percent of the historical average, and the Area 8 seine fishing effort was also less than 10 percent of the historical average.

These fishery opportunities provide significant economic opportunities to the Bella Coola, Hagensborg and Shearwater communities, as well as to the Heiltsuk and Nuxalk First Nations, while meeting conservation objectives.

No conservation problems for steelhead have been identified; however, significant management measures are in place to reduce harm to steelhead in these fisheries.  I have attached an appendix for your interest.

Also, the Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB) has been advising DFO on recreational fishery issues for nearly 50 years.  The SFAB represents recreational fishing interests on the Integrated Harvest Planning Committee (IHPC), which advises the Minister on fishing plans.  The final IFMP reflects the input of the IHPC, including the perspective of the SFAB.

Local stakeholders are encouraged to provide their input to local Sport Fishing Advisory Committees (SFACs), which are located throughout the province.  DFO will be holding meetings with the SFACs over the next few months to review the Department’s current fishing plans and to make improvements for next year.  I encourage your input and participation to this process.  To become involved in this process, please contact the local SFAC in your area.  For more information, please visit the Department’s website at < >.

Thank you for sharing your concerns about this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Original Signed by

Gail Shea, P.C., M.P.
Ministerial Correspondence Control Unit / Unité de contrôle de la correspondance ministérielle
Fisheries and Oceans Canada / Pêche et Océans Canada
200 Kent Street, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0E6 / 200, rue Kent, Ottawa (ON) K1A 0E6
Telephone / Téléphone  613-992-3474
Facsimile / Télécopieur 613-990-7292
Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada



A template and contacts!

Hey all,

Below is a template to help those of you understand the issues (as I see them) and how you can help. I’ve heard a lot of people comment that because they are not Canadians they couldn’t possibly make a difference. Wrong! It’s your contribution to our economy as fishers and potential fishers that make a difference.

Your Name
Your Street Address
Your City, State
ZIP Code


Hon. Gail Shea
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Room 556, Confederation Buildling
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

(619) 992-9223

Dear Minister Shea,

PARAGRAPH 1: Who you are and where you are from.

PARAGRAPH 2: What your grievance is and how you are personally affected by the issue.

Issue: Gill net Chum Salmon fisheries in region 8. Impact on salmon and steelhead.

PARAGRAPH 3: What you see as a solution. “I would like to see…”

Things such as:

–            openings over a smaller area.
–            fisheries closer to the source.
–            no fisheries when abundance lacking.

PARAGRAPH 4: How this solution would impact (help you).


Your Name

***Ideally, all letters would sent via snail mail. But if time is restricted, emails can be sent to those that provide them. Phone calls are also extremely effective***


You can voice any opinion or grievance you have but here are some major ones.

1. Geographic size of the openings- the openings have been conducted over the length of Dean Channel and out to Fitz Hugh sound; from sub zones 8-1 to 8-8. A huge area being fished for multiple days a week; doesn’t allow enough times between openings to let any fish through.

REQUEST: Openings in smaller geographic areas. Openings in 1 or 2 sub zones to allow an adequate fish passed the commercial fleet.

2. Fisheries Closer to the Source- when targeting specific runs of fish the commercial fisheries should be conducted closer to the natal streams. Opening in outer reaches of Dean Channel intercept sensitive stocks destined for many non-target rivers.

REQUEST: Fisheries done closer to the mouths of target rivers and complete avoidance of sensitive areas.

3. No Fisheries when Abundance Lacking- Chum fisheries have been allowed to continue despite the fact that WILD chum numbers in Area 8 are very poor and extremely sensitive stocks are intercepted at same time.

REQUEST: No commercial fishing for any species when sufficient numbers are not present.


* Substitute one of these 4 names into the letter or any other public official you see fit. The one in the template is for federal fisheries minister Gail Shea.


Hon. Gail Shea
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Room 556
Confederation Building
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

(613) 992-9223


Honerable Mary Polak
Environment Minister
PO BOX 9047
Victoria, BC
V8W 9E2

(250) 387-1187


Dan Wagner
Fisheries Management Coordinator, DFO
PO BOX 130
Bella Coola, BC
V0T 1C0

(250) 799-5620


Jennifer Rice
North Coast MLA
Room 201
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

250 387-3655


How can I get involved? Squeaky wheel gets the grease…

“Squeaky wheel gets the grease… ”

No, it really does though. Through a storm of letters launched at officials this summer some major policy changes in Area 8 could be seen almost instantly.

1. Weedlines extended in Area 8-8 passed August 15th

Weedlines, used as a steelhead conservation tactic, were historically abandoned as of August 15th in subzone 8-8 (that area commercial fished closest to the Dean and Kimsquit Rivers). Besides protecting some steelhead they also allow a number of surface swimming chum to pass through netted regions. 

2. Dramatic decrease in the geographic size of the openings

From large openings including 7 subzones adjacent to Dean Channel, the later openings included only 2 or 3 subzones. More untouched areas = more fish back to their natal streams.

Now regardless of your opinions concerning weedlines or ANY amount of commercial pressure, these represent a victory, however small. This means that independent video, photographs, letters or phone calls make a difference. They are listening.

A few tips and an excellent example of letter by Jeff Vermillion demanding all the right points poignantly and demanding accountability from our public officials.

TIP 1: A phone call is better than a letter, a letter is better than an email, an email is still important!

TIP 2: Include superiors on any email. Make sure officials don’t just feel accountable to you but also to their offices.

TIP 3: Pass on the word and once is not enough. It’s the inconvenience of dealing with the response each and every time a questionable decision is made that will drive policy change.

” Dear Mr. Wagner,
This is the third letter of concern I have written without any response so I guess I’ll keep it brief as it appears they aren’t being read.  That said I wanted to reiterate my position that your decision to keep the weed line order in place is not going to do anything to improve chum stocks in the Dean, approach waters, Kimsquit and local creeks.  I know it may seem odd coming from someone in the steelhead business, but our position is that all salmon stocks are critical to these ecosystems and those that depend on salmon.  It should be noted that includes a sustainable commercial fishery.  From the perspective of those on the ground it is the lowest abundance of chum anyone can recall.  I see catch rates are still strong in the commercial fleet so it appears you’ll just keep fishing.  It is, I’ll point out once again, not the catch that matters when it comes to conservation of the species but rather what makes it it to the spawning beds.  That is our concern as the spawning beds we normally see full are devoid of life.

I wanted to inquire as to who we might hire at DFO to do an independent aerial count of the chum as it appears you give our field assessments(guides on the water 8 hours a day) no credence.  Is there someone you would suggest we use?  Are we missing something?  Could you please ease our concerns for chum in the area?

I also noted from the DFO update that in fact there was increased commercial effort in 8.  I gather something changed upon further review of the data?  In your email to one of the guys you actually responded to you said that was not the case.  And while I recognize that steelhead are clearly not of concern to you, I want to make it clear that we are having the worst Dean River steelhead season in recent memory.  I assure you we won’t tolerate that silently, forget this year’s management of the fishery and will do everything within our power to make sure MSC certification does not happen.  We clearly have the connections in the business community to make sure that any certification of such a reckless fishery will be widely publicized and discredit MSC on an international basis.

Finally is there any chance my emails aren’t getting through?  I haven’t received a single reply from you.  The last I checked I was a taxpayer too so at the very least I’d appreciate the courtesy of a reply as these questions and our concerns are timely.

Thanks in advance for your reply.


Jeff Vermillion”


Making Sense of Area 8 and the 2013 Openings.

Hey all! Just a post to give perspective to the all the talk as of late. First things first is the DFO map of Area 8 (below). Here you can see the different subzones and how the individual openings could differ. It should also go to demonstrate the long body of water that is Dean Channel (including Fisher and Fitz Hugh Sound). The Dean and Kimsquit rivers are located in 8-9, which is not opened up to the gill net fleet, but 8-1- through 8-8 are. All these subzones are critical migration corridors for salmon and steelhead and non-target species (coho, pink, sockeye and steelhead) and steadily intercepted.


So… 2013 saw openings every week from early June until the end of August (with a one week grace for the missing late run Bella Coola chum). These openings were almost always extended to a second day announced on the fly the day before.

Below is the 2013 list; full details available at: DFO; Area 8; Commercial Openings.

FN0799 FN0799-Licensing Information – Pacific Fishery Licence Unit – counter service available until August 30, 2013 August 27, 2013
at 3:47 PM
FN0785 FN0785-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – August 26, 2013 Opening – Amendment to FN0779 August 23, 2013
at 9:22 AM
FN0780 FN0780-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – August 26, 2013 Opening August 22, 2013
at 2:26 PM
FN0779 FN0779-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – August 26, 2013 Opening August 22, 2013
at 2:17 PM
FN0765 FN0765-LICENSING INFORMATION- Training sessions on the National Online Licensing System August 21, 2013
at 8:43 AM
FN0760 FN0760-LICENSING INFORMATION- Pacific Fishery Licence Unit closures and the National Online Licensing System August 19, 2013
at 3:23 PM
FN0745 FN0745-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Gill Net – Area 7 Update and Area 8 Opening – August 19, 2013 August 15, 2013
at 3:06 PM
FN0744 FN0744-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 7 Update and Area 8 Opening – August 19, 2013 August 15, 2013
at 3:00 PM
FN0719 FN0719-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net/ Seine – Area 8 – week of August 11 to 17, 2013- August 9, 2013 Update August 9, 2013
at 1:09 PM
FN0714 FN0714-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net/ Seine – Area 8 – week of August 11 to 17, 2013- Update August 8, 2013
at 1:13 PM
FN0706 FN0706-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – August 6, 2013 Opening August 6, 2013
at 9:01 AM
FN0705 FN0705-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – August 6, 2013 Opening August 6, 2013
at 8:53 AM
FN0693 FN0693-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – August 5, 2013 Opening August 1, 2013
at 1:06 PM
FN0692 FN0692-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – August 5, 2013 Opening August 1, 2013
at 12:56 PM
FN0679 FN0679-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 30, 2013 Opening July 29, 2013
at 3:59 PM
FN0678 FN0678-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – July 30, 2013 Opening July 29, 2013
at 3:47 PM
FN0660 FN0660-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 29, 2013 Opening July 25, 2013
at 1:59 PM
FN0659 FN0659-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – July 29, 2013 Opening July 25, 2013
at 1:53 PM
FN0653 FN0653-LICENSING INFORMATION: Registration and Access to the New National Online Licensing System July 24, 2013
at 4:34 PM
FN0648 FN0648-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 23, 2013 Opening July 22, 2013
at 3:38 PM
FN0647 FN0647-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – July 23, 2013 Opening July 22, 2013
at 3:31 PM
FN0630 FN0630-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 22, 2013 Opening July 18, 2013
at 1:47 PM
FN0628 FN0628-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – July 22, 2013 Opening July 18, 2013
at 1:22 PM
FN0613 FN0613-Pacific Fishery Licence Units – Office Closures/Limited service July 18-19, 2013 July 16, 2013
at 10:14 AM
FN0608 FN0608-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – July 16, 2013 Opening July 15, 2013
at 3:36 PM
FN0607 FN0607-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 16, 2013 Opening July 15, 2013
at 3:15 PM
FN0590 FN0590-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area D Catch Monitoring Pilot – Packer Designation and General Information July 11, 2013
at 2:15 PM
FN0588 FN0588-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 15, 2013 opening July 11, 2013
at 1:48 PM
FN0587 FN0587-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Seine – Area 8 – July 15, 2013 opening July 11, 2013
at 1:38 PM
FN0573 FN0573-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area 8 – July 9, 2013 opening July 8, 2013
at 4:46 PM
FN0556 FN0556-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Gill Net – Area 8 – July 8, 2013 Opening July 4, 2013
at 12:37 PM
FN0532 FN0532-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Gill Net – Area 8 – July 01 opening June 27, 2013
at 9:36 AM
FN0517 FN0517-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Gill Net – Area 8 – June 24 Opening June 21, 2013
at 1:37 PM
FN0508 FN0508-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Chinook – Gill Net – Area 8 – Week of June 23rd to June 29th June 20, 2013
at 11:52 AM
FN0489 FN0489-Salmon – Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plans 2013/14 for Northern and Southern B.C. June 14, 2013
at 3:57 PM
FN0481 FN0481-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area C – Area 8 – June 17 opening June 14, 2013
at 9:34 AM
FN0459 FN0459-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area C – Area 8 – June 10 opening June 6, 2013
at 3:13 PM
FN0455 FN0455-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Gill Net – Area D – Catch Monitoring changes for 2013 June 5, 2013
at 10:49 AM
FN0396 FN0396-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Gill Net – Area 8 – June 3 – Opening May 23, 2013
at 3:22 PM
FN0282 FN0282-COMMERCIAL – Salmon: Commercial Catch Reporting In the Pacific Region For 2013: Attention E-Log Fishers April 11, 2013
at 8:50 AM
FN0252 FN0252-Pacific Fishery Licence Unit – National Online Licensing System Update (FN0210 Reposted) March 28, 2013
at 10:20 AM
FN0210 FN0210-Pacific Fishery Licence Unit – National Online Licensing System Update March 21, 2013
at 10:59 AM
FN0187 FN0187-Licencing Information – Salmon: Gill Net, Seine and Troll – 2013 Licence issuance to allow for the harvest of Schedule II species and transporting only March 19, 2013
at 1:35 PM
FN0171 FN0171-Commercial – Salmon – Catch Monitoring Working Group: 2013 update March 15, 2013
at 4:42 PM
FN0117 FN0117-COMMERCIAL – Salmon – Release of Draft 2013/14 Northern and Southern B.C. Salmon IFMPs for Consultation March 4, 2013
at 11:11 AM

A form letter rebuttal and how it reads.

Here is a rebuttal I received from DFO for my first letter concerning the ongoing Area 8 openings. I should point out that the same response was sent to all those who chose to write a letter with their concern. It speaks to the “small” increase in fishing boat pressure but still has the commercial footprint for 2013 in and around the average for the 2000’s. The issue however was that a huge surge in gill net/ seine fishing pressure happened at a critical time for non-target species migration (pink, coho, steelhead). Also it was quickly becoming evident that targeting a surplus of hatchery Bella Coola River chums was drastically impacting other chum stocks, namely Kimsquit and Dean.

A few things to help you understand this post…

– Dean Channel is only considered the last portion of an extremely long channel.

– Please note that release of steelhead means post gill net.

– Revival tanks must be on board but no requirement to use.

– Weedlines are a conservation tactic used by commercial fisherman to try and avoid surface swimming steelhead by hanging their net 100 cm down from the surface.

Danny Wagner, DFO, Bella Coola.

There has been 11 gillnet and 8 seine openings in Fisher/Fitz Hugh so far this year. The average fleet size is 55 gillnets and 6 seines with a low /high of 12 / 75 gn and 3 / 13 seine. This represences a bit above average effort for gillnets and low effort levels for seines compared to past fisheries in the 2000s. In Dean Channel there have only been 12 gill net vessel fishing days all year ( one day there was 5 vessels fishing otherwise just 1 or 2 in an opening) and few of these were complete days because better fishing particularly in the Bella Coola Gill Net caused them to move. The limited fishing for Fraser and Skeena stocks has not resulted in  a large increase in effort in Area 8.
Restrictions in place to reduce impacts on steelhead include: mandatory release of Steelhead, all vessel must be equipped with a revival box, day light only fisheries and all gill nets in Dean Channel and the north half of Fisher Channel  be equipped with a minimum 100 cm deep weed line until August 15.
The commercial fishery remained closed this week. Future fisheries are undetermined at this time but would include an extension to the weedline restriction.
NEXT UP: 2013 Openings and understanding Area 8.

From where this blog was “spawned”

The idea for this blog came about from a lack of salmon in the Dean River. It became apparent to all those in the Dean that some light needed to be shed on an ongoing situation we have been dealing with. This summer, 2013, there had been 22 large scale commercial gill net openings (now 24) in Area 8 (which involved Dean Channel, Fisher Sound and Fitz Hugh Sound) when we became alarmed.

From the beginning, residents of Kimsquit (community at the mouth of Dean River), fishing guides and onlookers began to notice a serious of absence of chinook, pink, chum and coho salmon and of course steelhead for which the region is legendary. It was so dire that spawning flats usually filled to the brim with spawning salmon by mid-August were completely void of ANY fish.

It seems that all the work done by pioneering conservationists in Area 8 had been pushed to the weigh side by industry and government. The blame falls completely on the shoulders of those concerned with the well being of wild fish, far to complacent for far too many years and guilty of allowing the pendulum to swing drastically away from the center.

This blog is not meant to be rant, but a source for information where those interested in what is happening in Area 8 can find that information in one place. It will be updated as frequently as time allows.

Below is an an example of what we are up against and an example of where we can start…

Thanks for your continued dedication to all of our cause!


“Dear Mr. Wagner,

I just wanted to send this letter and some accompanying photographs to convey my displeasure with the commercial openings happening in Area 8 on August 19th. Despite the decreased geographic size of the openings and the dropped nets in 8-8 I have a difficult time understanding the justification for any fishery in Dean Channel (specifically 8-8). The chum salmon in the Kimsquit are non-existant, as are the beach spawners and the Dean is largely devoid of any evidence of chums.

As I’m aware DFO did chopper counts in our area and then opened 8-8 for Monday, I have to believe you saw results that surpassed your Kimsquit threshold- otherwise I’m sure there would be no justification for an opening. As I have trouble understanding what that could have been, I have enclosed 4 photographs below to give perspective of the major chum salmon spawning areas in the Dean. Although I have no pictures from previous years to offer perspective, I’m sure you could see a scenario where even a single fish would be an improvement to these pictures.

1) Upper Ross Island- Largest spawning flat on the lower river. 100’s of pairs each year in late August. This year 0.

2) Lower Ross Island- Back channel usually filled with milling chums digging redds. This year 0.

3) Archaeological- Back channel usually filled with milling chums digging redds. This year 0.

4) Upper Tidal Channel- Flat filled with pairs of chums. This year 0.





I’m curious as to the model used to estimate abundance and what your Kimsquit threshold is? It will help us better prepare for such events in the future.

Yours truly,”