As I do from time to time, I give you a historical letter, this time, to the DFO minister from The Amalgamated Conservation Society in Victoria regarding a sport corridor in saltwater. This is drawn from the material Tom Coles sent me as a CD of archival material from the sport interests at the time, including Alec Merriman columns, the Sport Fishing Advisory Board, other associations, and many images of people involved in the day, Bob Wright, Charlie White, Jimmy Gilbert and so on, with whose names we are all familiar.
I am working from an optical character recognition version of the originals – because they had been photoed and put on disc, and were not a text doc – hence, from time to time, there are glitches/jibberish in the text that I have to interpret back into English. Please excuse any errors.
This is the history of sport fishing in our area, and of interest to us all. Of some humour, in this, we sporties suggested a corridor to help our catches, while later, DFO in the mid-nineties brought in a corridor to prevent our catches, as in we could not fish inside the corridor, rather than it being reserved for us:
URGENT APPLICATION FOR A 2 MILE NET FREE RESERVE IN JUAN DE FUCA STRAIT IN 1967
The Amalgamated Conservation Society maintains there is a serious problem in the sports fishery in areas 17, 18, 19 and 20. We point out also that the two departments, i.e. Federal and Provincial Fisheries, are also on record as stating there is definitely a serious problem.
On the Provincial level after a study of the situation, Hr. R. McMynn in his report states: “In Southern Vancouver Island waters, the sports-men’s share of chinook and coho salmon has decreased significantly in the last few years. In these waters, it appears that if sport or commercial catches of chinook and coho are to increase, it will have to be either at the expense of the other fishery or as a result of increased salmon production because, at the moment. there appears to be an inverse relationship between commercial and sport catches of chinook and coho (when one goes up the other goes down)".
That there has been a marked decline in coho catches by sports and putter fishermen in Juan de Fuca straits co-incidental with the build-up of the net fleet in Juan de Fuca since 1957 and particularly since 1960, can be confirmed by sports and putter fishermen who fished that area before the wall of nets.
The Federal Fisheries department has absolutely no figures (from lack of studies) to back up or deny these facts and it is 10 years too late for them to start now to make a comparison. Although the sports catch effort has increased 100% in the last 7 or 8 years, our catch has not risen but has taken a tremendous decrease.
We would point out that the proposal for a 2-mile net free reserve is a compromise between sports fishermen and commercial interests after several other efforts for a solution.
First it was asked that the net fleet be cut to at least half the boats of the 1960 fleet or that netters from both countries be pulled back from Juan de Fuca Strait to do their fishing closer to river mouths where they could be rigidly controlled and specific salmon runs could be protected. Then, because of the consideration that Canadian commercial fishermen had the advantage in Juan de Fuca Straits at getting first crack at getting American fish, an 11-mile corridor was proposed.
Commercial men claimed this was too great a hardship on them and the compromise of a 2-mile net free salmon reserve was proposed by the Amalgamated Conservation Society. This is the absolute minimum to bring any relief to sports fishermen and this would have to be continuous to be effective.
Net fishermen are used to boundaries. The International boundary is patrolled now and there is little trouble with the ocean surf line up and down the whole coast. We also point out that the Americans have a 3-mile net reserve and they control it. Why can't we?
There are many sports fishing regulations that are being enforced to the limit; example, Saanich Inlet. If we can regulate all the other restrictions, then why not the corridor? We would reiterate if enforcement becomes an insurmountable hurdle, then we are certainly moving backwards instead of updating to handle situations regarding our natural resources that are bound to appear as our country expands.
The sports fishermen are asking that a 2-mile net free reserve be established for a trial period starting this season (1967) when it is feared that the expected preponderance of netters over big runs of pinks and Sockeye could do most harm conservation wise to coho.
The fisheries department could then undertake a positive statistical study to prove the worth of the net free reserve. The start is indicated through a telegram sent to DFO that the commercials caught nearly 400,000 coho while sports fishermen immediately behind the net line in area 19 and 20 caught less than 200 coho. Labour Day weekend a three-day sport fishing derby in Victoria area saw 400 sports fishermen catch only 12 coho while commercial netters during the same week caught
132,148 coho. What is going to happen to us this year when they are going to allow 4 net days?
It has been said that there is no evidence that salmon migrating through Juan de Fuca Straits ever made a sports fishery, and yet in the Progress Summary of the Juan de Fuca Chinook and Coho Salmon Investigation put out by the federal government, it states "The sport catch of coho salmon in this region is primarily:
1. A late fall to early spring grilse fishery in Saanich Inlet.
2. The harvest of adult coho passing through this area from outside waters.
3. The harvest of coho in the Cowichan Bay area.
The fact that there is no documentary evidence in the Juan de Fuca area lies with the fisheries department in that there has been little or no study or research carried out in relation to the sports fishery.
We are prepared to produce any number of sworn affidavits by sports fishermen who met with outstanding success during pre-netting years and have experienced the decline since the build-up of the net fishery. It has also been said that the commercial troll fishery in this area does not exist because due to the change in feeding habits, the fish will not take.
We suggest that the troll fishery in this area does not exist because better harvests naturally can be obtained by trollers in Swiftsure and Big Bank area where they meet fish on their way in and it stands to reason that it is better to harvest the pool of two million fish before the nets get at them rather than a pool of one million after the nets have taken their harvest, plus spooked the remainder. In addition, the trollers, by moving out further, have a chance at American coho moving toward the Columbia and Westport, etc.
Also, with regard to the contention that mature fish cannot be taken by troll, we point out that the putter fleet at Bamfield who now fish ahead of the net lines, have harvested fantastic amounts of mature coho. The sportsmen have success in Cowichan Bay, Oyster River, etc. and these are mature fish.
Sports fishermen believe that the wall of nets skim off the same fish which they have been used to catching and drives others deeper beyond the reach of sports fishermen. We have maintained for several years that area 20 in Juan de Fuca Straits is a collecting and feeding area for coho salmon preparing for their migration to inland waters.
Here are a few passages from the State of Washington Department of Fisheries book published in February, 1960: The treaty ban on ocean net fishing as drawn, restricted U.S. fishermen from fishing the ocean outside the three-mile limit off Port San Juan, Pachena area, along Vancouver Island, and the area south and westward of Tatoosh Island. The Bonilla-Tatoosh line in effect gave Canadian fishermen in the newly developing fishing area a distinct advantage over U. S, fishermen in the Strait fishery for the following reason:
The natural conditions prevailing in the area off the Canadian shore inside the Bonilla-Tatoosh line, in contrast to conditions prevailing along the Washington shore, provide for a large-scale mingling of races and stocks of salmon collected in the area prior to their migration to spawning streams along the coast of Washington, in the Strait and lower Puget Sound and to the Gulf of Georgia and Fraser River areas. This area also embraces the major migratory route of salmon stocks migrating eastward. Thus this area provides an ocean fishery for Canadian fishermen while American fishermen fishing for the same species are largely confined to an area 70 to 80 miles further inside the Strait.
Joint investigations by the Canadian and American departments demonstrated the following:
1. Racial composition of salmon from Swiftsure lightship to Pillar Point inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca (comprising the study area) are the same and made up of numerous races. They originate to the greatest extent from Puget Sound and the Gulf of Georgia and to a lesser degree from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia coastal streams.
2. Silvers mill about in the Bonilla-Tatoosh area from June until September with early races moving into Puget Sound during July and August.
We think these statements back up our beliefs. Many people believe that if you have a 4-day fishery and 1ift the nets for 3 days that three sevenths of the fish will pass through. This is not the case; many of these coho move around in Area 20 and perhaps are in the area several days or even weeks before they move on, suggesting the fish that evade the solid wall of nets are spooked and travel past the lower Island outside, beyond the reach of sports fishermen.
In fact, last September some of our sports fishermen ventured out past Race Rocks with hand lines and five-pound weights and had little problem limiting out on mature coho in 20 and 25 fathoms of wawater. Unfortunately, this is not sports fishing and is no answer to our problem. water. We know the coho are passing through our waters outside and deep. These are our spawning escapement but they are completely useless to the sports fishery.
The 2-mile net free reserve would allow a proportion of the fish to come through in an unmolested stream in sufficient numbers to allow hook and line fishermen to have a reasonable amount of success and a comparativelv equitable share of this, their historic fishery on coho runs.
The problems are twofold and one is very important for the conservation and preservation.
We feel that indiscriminate netting is wiping out specific runs of early coho which mill around end are subjected to netting, week after week. We accept the fact that large escapements travel through Juan de Fuca Straits. These are late run ocean type coho destined for large river systems, Fraser etc., but the earlier run coho destined for smaller gulf rivers, as well as the bigger rivers, have decreased tremendously due to the unselective Juan do Fuca fishery.
The average commercial catch of these early run summer coho (to September 1st) in the Strait of Juan de Fuca has declined from 70% (1951-58) to 43% (1959-64) of the total catch, a decline of nearly 30%. A serious decline in the sports catch in Southern Vancouver Island waters confirms this
fact (ref. Page 101, R. McMynn report).
The argument that a Bonilla net free reserve would seriously restrict a major Canadian net fishery in Area 19 is not reasonable as many can be taken with additional netting time allowed as compensation if necessary. The 2-mile net free zone would not hamper the international fishing agreement as under the terms of the convention there is a 50-50 split.
We stress the urgency of the two-mile net free reserve in 1967 because of the anticipated double the number of netting days and a bigger fleet of net boats than ever before to fish over forecast fantastic runs of sockeye and pinks with absolutely no consideration by the International Pacific Salmon Commission of Coho and Spring Salmon for conservation or for sports fishermen.