Archive for the ‘Fishing’ Category

Cod stocks improving: Let’s fish!

November 19, 2010

I am down in Nevada at the moment and listening to NPR radio while I drive.

I just heard a comment there that cod stocks were improving and that commercial fishermen wanted to get back fishing them. The commentator noted that he had sympathy for that point of view.

Well I sure the hell don’t. The commercial cod fishery has a lot to answer for.

The commercial fisheries raped the resource for years. Not only fishing well past the capacity of the resource, but dragging the seabed with some of the fishing techniques and destroying the habitat there as well.

A major factor that contributed to the depletion of the cod stocks off the shores of Newfoundland was the introduction and proliferation of equipment and technology that increased the volume of landed fish. For centuries local fishermen used technology that limited the volume of their catch, the area they fished, and allowed them to target specific species and ages of fish.[51] From the 1950s onwards, as was common in all industries at the time, new technology was introduced that allowed fishermen to trawl a larger area, fish to a deeper depth and for a longer time. By the 1960s, powerful trawlers equipped with radar, electronic navigation systems and sonar allowed crews to pursue fish with unparalleled success, and Canadian catches peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s.[52] These new technologies adversely affected the Northern Cod population in two important ways: by increasing the area and depth that was fished, the cod were being depleted to the point that the surviving fish were incapable of replenishing the stock lost each year;[53] and secondly, the trawlers caught enormous amounts of non-commercial fish, which although economically unimportant, held huge ecological significance: incidental catch undermines the functioning of the ecosystem as a whole, depleting stocks of important predator and prey species. In the case of the Northern Cod, significant amounts of capelin – an important prey species for the cod – were caught as bycatch, further undermining the survival of the remaining cod stock.

Their attitude was akin to the old buffalo hunters who competed to see who could kill the last buffalo. (OK, I know they’re Bison).

If you want to read an excellent book on the issue pick up a copy of Cod: A Biography of a Fish That Changed The World, by Mark Kurlansky. Or check on it at a used book store. A review of the book here.

However in doing a bit of google research (I didn’t get to hear the actual story on NPR) in appears that the North Sea cod are making a bit of a comeback, but the Newfoundland stocks are just holding their own at this point.

But of course we are still fishing them.

The cod population off of Newfoundland’s south coast is neither rising nor declining, reveals a Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) research report released Wednesday.

This inconclusive assessment will be used by fisheries managers to set commercial quotas in the coming year.

“It’s certainly frustrating from everyone’s perspective, from our own and from the fisheries managers and indeed from the fishermen, too,” said John Brattey, a DFO research scientist.

The assessment addresses fishing zone 3PS, which has been in steady decline since 2000, reports CBC.

Recently, fishermen in the zone have reported catches of mature cod that are larger than those seen in recent years. This could mean the area is not being overfished, Brattey said.

He said, however, that it is too early to tell how many young fish will survive to maturity.

“We don’t feel that a single mathematical model can reconcile the information into a single assessment of the stock as a whole, so we don’t feel it would be appropriate to do it at this point,” he said.

Cod stocks off the south coast of Newfoundland are one of the healthiest in the area, but only in comparison to other stocks, which remain low.

It was only in April of last year that DFO scientists reported that cod population in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence had reached a record low point, with only 50,000 tonnes of cod remaining in the area.

The cod stock off the Island’s northeast coast remained in a diminished state even after more than 15 years of a total ban on cod fishing in the area.

The south coast was also closed to commercial fishing in 1992, and only limited areas were ever reopened.

Actually a large part of the blame has to be laid at the door of the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) which was (supposedly) responsible for managing the fishery and under whose watch the fishery collapsed. There are many complaints that they are equally responsible for problems in the westcoast fishery.

But then again the DFO can’t win no matter which route they take. If they allow the commercial fisheries to take precedence they get hammered by the conservation and environmental groups, and if they err on the side of a conservative strategy they get crucified by spokespersons for the commercial fishery.

The initial jubilation over the massive bounty of returning salmon sockeye is now being washed up in criticism, with Conservative MP John Cummins saying fishermen are furious with the way federal regulators have delayed the fishery.

“People are just disgusted with the way they’ve managed this, these guys haven’t a clue,” charged Cummins, an experienced commercial fisherman and MP for Delta-Richmond East.

Cummins says reports of a large return of Fraser River sockeye started coming in three weeks ago but the industry was forced to sit on the sidelines as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans refused to allow a fishery.

That delay is now the subject of intense debate, with one expert saying that millions of returning sockeye are going to overcrowd spawning grounds, causing significant numbers to die off before spawning — a terrible waste of fish that could have been caught earlier by fishermen.

Cummins agrees and is now calling for a shakeup at DFO.

Although I find the argument that fish performing their natural process of spawning and dying being a ‘waste’ of those fish  pretty amusing, it is however consistent with statements that I have heard over the years from commercial fisheries people to the effect that any fish that got past the commercial nets were ‘wasted’.

We could also talk about commercially fishing down the food chain, but that’s another story.

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Hunters, Anglers and Gun Owners: Fighting for your rights

August 13, 2009

I had lunch with a friend a few days ago, and we were talking about the issues of gun control and the attacks on hunting by various groups and individuals.

He pointed out that the anti-groups ask for the moon and settle for something less, while we try to defend the status quo. By doing so, we lose our rights, bit by bit and piece by piece.

He argued that we need a different mindset. We have to go to the table with the intent of of getting more and not just maintaining what we tentatively have. We need to push the limits of the government bureaucrats and the politicians.

We may not convince them to give us what we are asking for, but we may – not right now, but somewhere down the road – realize other concessions.

The key is that we don’t go in once, get rejected and then quit. The object is to keep coming back to the table to make our case.

Thus we should be pushing for the right to hunt with a handgun.

We should be demanding that transport permits for restricted and prohibited firearms be part and parcel of the firearms licence.

We should be demanding the right to carry a handgun in the backcountry for protection, rather than being forced to pack the weight of a long-gun.

How about making them take some of those firearms off their arbitrary prohibited list rather than worrying about which guns they will next add to the list.

We should make them justify the existence of the pointless and stupid laws that are currently on the books.

Why is a shotgun with a 16 inch barrel from the factory legal, while a shotgun whose barrel has been cut back to 16 inches is illegal?

Why are noise suppressors illegal? Wouldn’t their use make eminent sense in noise sensitive areas?

We need to demand more hunting and angling opportunity for resident hunters and anglers. There is room for more opportunity – we are just not being allowed to access it.

The problem is that too many of our organizations don’t want to take the hard line. Hell, they don’t want to take the semi-hard line.

But the animal rights, the anti-gun and the anti-hunting groups have no qualms about pushing their agendas and they haven’t been disenfranchised. In fact, they have identified people within governments who, if not favourable to their views, are not willing to stand up against them.

It seems that no-one else seems to have any problem pushing their agendas. Just us.

But the blame for our weak bargaining position doesn’t lie solely with our organizations. Every gun owner, hunter and angler needs to become educated about the issues and get personally involved at some level, whether it be letting their organization know what they expect from them, communicating their concerns to politicians and government staff or informing the public of the issues. Some people are there now, but not enough.

To be overly dramatic: We either fight or die.

Ottawa and meetings, meetings, meetings

May 7, 2009

Working in Ottawa this week with a small delegation from the BC Wildlife Federation. We have been meeting with MPs, Senators and senior bureaucrats since Monday and are on our last day of meetings. Flying home tomorrow. Not a moment too soon as I think I am just about overdosed on meetings.

We came down to talk about several issues: fisheries (halibut allocation to a large degree), the amendments to the Navigable Waters Protection Act which were shoved through in the government budget bill, C-10, native affairs issues and federal firearms issues, specifically Garry Breitkreuz’ private member’s bill C-301 and the government’s Senate bill, S-5.

We were given a good ear by all of the people that we met with, which doesn’t mean that anything will happen, but at least we were given the courtesy to fairly state our case.

Lots of security as is to be expected. But what impressed me was the friendlness and good humour of the secutiry people. Having grown used to quite the opposite reaction in airports everywhere, where it appears they are trained to suspect everyone as an imminent security risk, it was quite a nice change. Commendations to whomever is in charge of that aspect of the Otawa experience.

Further criticism on the Kapp decision

July 6, 2008

The last posting refers to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Kapp decision which validated a race-based commercial fishery quota in British Columbia. A further article goes on to point out that race based quotas just create a new class of victims.

Quotas are one-size-fits-all remedies for problems that deserve more careful and specific treatment. The way to help Canadians in poverty, including aboriginals discriminated against in the past, is to provide targeted money and education based on individual need. The worst thing a government can do is to use the scattered approach of quotas, which only creates new victims.

To illustrate, in the West Coast fishery, the new quota victims include fishermen of Vietnamese, Japanese and even aboriginal ancestry. The combination of the discrimination-is-OK section of the Charter and federal policy means Kim Nguyen, the first woman of Vietnamese ancestry to join the B.C. fishing industry, is now a second-class Canadian citizen.

The Charter-plus-policy discrimination racket also means George Horne, an aboriginal who has been fishing for 50 years and who belongs to the Saanich Indian Band, can’t fish commercially on an equal basis because of such quotas. He belongs to the “wrong” aboriginal collective.

A third unintended victim of intended racial quotas is Leslie Budden.

Budden is of Japanese ancestry and wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006 to note how her family now faced discrimination for the second time in a century because they were not of the proper race. She noted how in the 1920s the federal government created race-based commercial fisheries that handicapped those of Japanese origin — including her grandfather, Rintaro Hayashi. Eventually, the fishermen went to court and won. Equal rights were restored in the fishery by the Privy Council in England in 1929.

As noted in the previous post it will remain to be seen how this decision plays out in other areas.

Supreme Court of Canada validates race based fishery decision.

July 6, 2008

On June 27, 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada delivered its’ decision in the Kapp case.

Giving exclusive commercial fishing licences to aboriginal groups is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and does not discriminate against non-aboriginal fishermen, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday in a unanimous decision.

Ruling on what’s known as the Kapp case, the country’s top court said a federal fisheries program that gives three native bands a 24-hour jump-start on fishing for salmon in British Columbia’s Fraser River is not unconstitutional because it qualifies as an affirmative action program.

The government was taken to court by a group of non-aboriginal fishermen who argued the program violates their Charter equality rights because they were discriminated against on the basis of race.

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In its decision, the court acknowledged the program “has a detrimental effect on non-aboriginal commercial fishers” and “that the disadvantage is related to racial differences,” but found the program falls under the section of the charter that protects affirmative action programs from constitutional challenges.

“By their very nature, programs designed to ameliorate the disadvantage of one group will inevitably exclude individuals from other groups,” the court wrote. “This does not necessarily make them either unconstitutional or ‘reverse discrimination.'”

The Charter section in question — Section 15(2) — gives governments the right to implement a program that “has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups” and in this case, the Supreme Court agreed with the Crown that the communal fishing licences granted to the Musqueam, Burrard and Tsawwassen bands meet the relevant criteria.

“The disadvantage of aboriginal people is indisputable,” the court said, and the bands in this case “were in fact, disadvantaged in terms of income, education, and a host of other measures.” The special licences are an attempt to negotiate solutions to aboriginal fishing rights claims and they provide economic opportunities and promote band self-sufficiency, thereby relating to the goals of improving conditions, the court said.

Above and beyond the obvious ones of the non-native commercial fishermen who had brought the suit, there were other concerns about the court’s decision.

Traditionally there are two arguments invoked to justify racial preferences in allocating resources and opportunities: 1) Such preferences are necessary to compensate for past wrongs and to give disadvantaged groups a leg up; and 2) they are necessary to ensure diversity of perspectives and ideas.

The court declared that the racialist system for allocating fishing rights is legal, but what’s disconcerting is that the court relied on argument No. 1. True, the second argument wasn’t available — no one was saying that the commercial fishery is like a law school class where diversity is needed to add cultural richness. But the problem with using reverse discrimination to compensate historically disadvantaged groups is that this approach was discredited long ago.

Yes, aboriginals as a group have suffered persecution and, yes, aboriginals have been disadvantaged as a result. But if the government is going to redress this past wrong, it needs to be certain that a) any individual being compensated has personally been injured and b) any individual at whose expense the compensation is being made is responsible for, or benefited from, the injury.

This stuff is still new to Canadians, but Americans have been dealing with it for decades as their country struggled with the legacy of slavery. Early on, some U.S. civil rights activists also fell into the trap of thinking that because John is black and Peter is white, and because blacks as a group are disadvantaged compared to whites, it’s fair to give preference to John over Peter, without knowing anything about their individual circumstances.

As the philosopher Carl Cohen wrote in a seminal 1979 paper, “rights do not and cannot inhere in skin-color groups. Individuals have rights, not races.” Last week, the Supreme Court justices showed themselves stunningly ignorant of this widely accepted ethical principle, declaring that the “fact that some individual members of the (aboriginal) bands may not experience personal disadvantage does not negate the group disadvantage suffered by band members.”

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Now, some Canadians might think, “OK, so my government is engaging in racial preferences. But is it not a pretty trivial entitlement that the non-aboriginal fishers are being denied, this right to fish for 24 hours? Why begrudge aboriginals a small advantage?”

Race-based approaches to social organization are never trivial. As Mr. Cohen noted: “Protests over segregated lunch counters had as their target not the culinary opportunities denied, but the immoral character of the ground of their denial.”

Ethnocultural leaders might be tempted to celebrate last week’s ruling, but they shouldn’t. The flip side of racial preferences is racial profiling. When governments engage in racial preferences they are actually practicing racial profiling, by meting out differential treatment to individuals based on generalizations about the racial groups to which they belong.

Regardless, the Court has spoken. The question is whether they have now set a precedent that will become the norm.

A Barbie Rod and a Red Plastic Worm

January 5, 2008

I love this story.

She’s only four, but a pint-sized angler is well on her way to becoming a pro.

Phoebe Swann is the daughter of 11 News photographer Kirk Swann. And she reeled in the big one during a family trip to Rockport.

Catching a big fish was not the real story. It’s the fact that Phoebe was using her Barbie fishing rod, with a red plastic worm as bait.

At the end was of the line was a 40-inch, 50-pound Black Drum.

Take a kid fishing!

World record rainbow trout

June 22, 2007

Big fish!