Community Dialogue

Reflections of the Sea
around Haida Gwaii

The context of these ‘reflections’ lies in dialogue that Islanders have had about marine issues over the past few years – informal conversations, interviews and workshops. In this document, I have tried to accurately reflect the thoughts, concerns and needs that I have heard Islanders express. It is my hope that these reflections will begin to lay foundations for an Islands’ grown Haida Gwaii Marine Strategy whose first consideration is Haida Gwaii and the people who live with it.

~ Lynn Lee, October 2004


Salmon, halibut, lingcod, rockfishes, clams, abalone, urchins, prawn, crabs, shrimps, scallops, octopus, mussel, barnacles, seaweed. These are some of the fish, shellfish and marine plants that have sustained the Haida people over thousands of years and continue to feed the Haida and other Islanders today.

Things are different now than before European contact. Haida people lived with the land and sea, using ocean resources for food, ceremony, tools and trade – clan rights and customs ensured the perpetuity of resources. The Haida tell a story of the oolichan, a small fish that invigorates mainland streams when they return to spawn, but not on Haida Gwaii. According to the story, oolichan once spawned here, but they were taken away as a lesson to the people for having fished irresponsibly.

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Over the years of European contact, living resources have become a commodity to be bought and sold in world markets for money. Because of this, living within natural limits of the land and sea has become an ideal of the past. The industrial fur trade, the birth of the commercial salmon fishery, canneries, trawlers, underwater fishing technology, have had their impact on the sea and the relationship between people and the sea.

From this mix, complex ecological puzzles emerge. What was the underwater world like when sea cows still existed? When sea otters thrived and fur seals were plentiful? Before industrial large-scale fishing began? Some knowledge lies in First Nations stories throughout the coast. Accompanied by remnants of warm water fish in ancient midden sites, stories also tell us the seas are in constant flux. Patterns of marine life and ecosystems change with ocean currents, wind and temperature – ebbing and flowing between shifting equilibriums.

Just as Haida Gwaii waters are ever changing, so are the Islands’ societies and economies. How do marine resources currently contribute to the Islands? What did the picture look like 20 or 50 years ago? And most importantly, what do Islanders want it to look like in the future?

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The history of fisheries on Haida Gwaii began with the Haida fishing for food and trade in a system that evolved over several thousand years. In the last two centuries, European trade has led to large-scale industrial fishing for sea otter, fur seal, whales, salmon, groundfish and shellfish. As these fisheries progressed, fishers became further removed from the marine ecosystems that supported them. Where the majority of salmon fishers used to live in northern coastal communities, most now live in southern BC. No Islanders and few on the North Coast hold geoduck licenses even though half the coastwide catch comes from the North Coast and a third of that from Haida Gwaii. Except for the razor clam and Dungeness crab fisheries, people who do not live near their fishing areas hold the majority of licenses and benefit most from the resources. Some fish is processed on the Islands, but most is taken away.

Islanders realize that action is needed before more salmon stocks disappear, before rockfish and lingcod are hard to find, before another sad story happens like that of abalone. Baseline information is necessary now. Islanders recognize the strength in diversification, the value of small-scale operations, and the need to build a vibrant future.

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Local Control
There is common recognition of the need to bring marine resource management closer to the communities that live with them. For Islanders, discussions invariably lead to talk about local control, local access, local benefits, local training and local involvement in research and monitoring. Changes in current governance are necessary to reconcile with First Nations constitutional rights. The challenge for Islanders is to work with each other, fishers, industry and agency representatives to redefine a relationship that begins addressing ecological needs in context with Haida rights, local needs and world demands.

Islanders are talking about marine issues and sharing knowledge and vision to chart a future that succeeds for Islanders and their environment in perpetuity – a course that looks at refreshing ways of living with the sea.

The following portrayals of marine issues identified by Islanders are presented in no order of value, importance or weight. Islanders recognize the need for a holistic perspective of the land and sea around Haida Gwaii, yet separation of complex issues is sometimes helpful to understand the whole – hence separation of the topics below. Since all things in nature are connected, the issues are intertwined and so too are the solutions.

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In living memory, abalone are now few and the population threatened. In 1990, the abalone fishery became the first in the Pacific to be closed to all fishing due to low population abundance. This affected First Nations cultures, recreational fishing and commercial economies and was a wake-up call for managers that resources are not infinitely renewable.
Over a 20-year span of commercial fishing, abalone on Haida Gwaii virtually disappeared. Locals say almost a million pounds were taken from Cumshewa Inlet alone. The former commercial fishery and continuing illegal fishery are largely blamed for the current threatened status of abalone. No detectable increase in Haida Gwaii abalone populations has been seen.

Although a sad ecological story, abalone is a success story about communities and agencies working together. The Haida Gwaii Abalone Stewards are composed of representatives of Haida governments, federal government agencies, and Islands-based marine conservation groups that work cooperatively to build awareness of abalone issues and encourage community stewardship of ocean resources. Research led by the Haida Fisheries Program and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) may provide more insight into measures that could rebuild Haida Gwaii abalone to levels that can support a ‘sustainable food fishery’.

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Three decades ago, the famed geoduck – largest burrowing clam in the world – was hardly noticed, hunkered down under up to a meter of sand and gravel with their necks (siphons) breaking the sea floor to sift microscopic plankton for food. Some Haida gather intertidal geoducks by cutting off their protruding necks so that they do not kill the clam. Halibut do the same underwater – tops of geoduck necks have been found in their stomachs!

Today, the geoduck clam has spread throughout Asian culinary markets and the geoduck commercial fishery is now the highest-value shellfish fishery in BC. As the fishery developed, the commercial fishers forged cooperative ties with management agencies to invest in scientific research, monitoring and management. On Haida Gwaii, they work with the Haida Fisheries Program and DFO to conduct geoduck population surveys. Although these are good and necessary relationships, Islanders want more say. Islanders are largely removed from the management and benefits associated with the fishery. There are no Islands-based license holders or fishers. There is no local processing of geoducks and local benefits are limited to the time and money spent by fishers on groceries and other services.

Islanders are also concerned about the commercial fishery. Is the fishery wasteful – do fishers discard low quality ‘ugly’ geoducks, leaving the immobile clams to scavengers? Is there a tie between geoduck fishers and abalone poaching? How effective is monitoring on this remote coastline?

Ecologically, there are many questions. Much of the geoduck life history and their connections in the marine ecosystem are a mystery. Geoducks are long-lived and can be found at depths over 100 feet – the oldest geoduck known in BC was taken from Tasu Sound and aged at over 160 years. What are the impacts of commercial fishing methods on sea floor ecology? Will localized removal of geoducks cause problems for future recruitment of juveniles into geoduck beds? Once removed, will geoducks be displaced by other species that live in the sea floor?

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Red Sea Urchin
Spiny kelp eaters inhabiting exposed rocky shores, red sea urchins are a common sight in the shallow subtidal waters of Haida Gwaii. Sea urchin roe – egg and sperm sacs – is a traditional food of the Haida people and is prized in Japan. In the century long absence of sea otters, shellfish multiplied. In unchecked numbers, red urchins grazed kelp in their path creating a phenomenon dubbed ‘urchin barrens’, places where red urchins line the ocean floor spine to spine. At Cape Knox, urchin barrens extend for hundreds of metres from shore. Off Limestone Island, kelp on underwater pinnacles only thrives above the extent of red urchin travel, where tidal currents and wave action are too strong.

Islanders’ thoughts about red sea urchins are divided. On one hand, some think the large abundance of red urchins has led to an alarming decline in kelp and suggest that the commercial fishery may be a means of control. On the other hand, some are concerned about the local extirpation of red urchin by commercial fishing. The Haida, for example, have requested areas closed to commercial fishing to ensure community needs are met.

Cooperative research and management relationships are a hallmark of the red urchin commercial fishery, similar to the geoduck fishery. The Haida Fisheries Program, commercial fishers and DFO have worked together on red urchin inventories, habitat surveys, and experimental research sites for over a decade. As with the geoduck fishery, however, Islanders are largely removed from the management and benefits associated with the fishery. There is one Islands-based commercial fishing license held by the Council of the Haida Nation. There is no local processing of red urchins and local benefits are limited to the time and money spent by fishers on groceries and other services.

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Sea Otter
Lying on their backs munching on crab or urchin or abalone, sea otters are the centre of debate in coastal BC and here is no exception. Sea otters have not yet returned to Haida Gwaii in any numbers. Fishers report occasional sightings and a photo of one eating a red urchin was taken near Sgan Gwaay. What if sea otters do return to establish a population here? Some Islanders are vehemently opposed to their return, with predictions of doom and gloom for shellfish resources. Others vociferously support their return, with predictions of increasing kelp bed productivity and shifting of nearshore ecosystems back to a more pristine state.

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Dungeness Crab
So far as we know, Dungeness crab have always come close to shore on North Beach to mate in summer. Until very recently, dipnetting on a falling summer tide to catch a few crabs for dinner was only known to Islanders. But the secret is out. Recreational dipnet crabbing on North Beach has become a ‘must-do’ for Island visitors such that over 100 recreational crabbers might be counted on a single good summer tide.

The sea around Haida Gwaii is a major contributor to the total BC commercial crab catch. In past years, Island residents held many more crab licenses and Masset was home to a major crab canning industry employing many from Old Massett and Masset. Today, only a handful of license-holders live here, some Islanders work aboard commercial vessels and some of the commercial catch is processed in Masset.

Islanders want to know about the impacts of recreational and commercial fishing on the crab population. The Haida Fisheries Program could provide insight into the recreational fishery through their monitoring activities on North Beach. The mandatory video surveillance equipment and additional field research on-board commercial vessels could address some impacts of the commercial fishery, including suspected illegal harvest of undersized, female and soft-shelled crabs.

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The oldest known rockfish on the BC coast was caught off the Bowie Seamount and aged at 208 years! More than 60 different rockfish species inhabit Northeast Pacific waters. They all have characters and quirks often very different from one another. In general, rockfish are long lived and slow to mature with slow rates of replenishment.

What are the effects of increasing fisheries on rockfish populations? In southern BC and particularly the Strait of Georgia, rockfish fishing history is longer than on the North Coast and perhaps able to provide some insight. In the past, rockfish was equated with ‘garbage’ fish not worthy of eating. Without commercial value and with little recreational value, rockfish ‘bycatch’ was thrown over the side dead or dying. In recent decades with declining salmon fisheries, increasing Asian presence and new Asian markets, the value of rockfish increased. A directed commercial fishery evolved and rockfish in the Strait of Georgia became harder and harder to find. Some now consider Strait of Georgia rockfish populations to be ‘commercially extinct’ and in recent years, huge efforts have been made to curtail the increasing recreational catch. Measures such as DFO Rockfish Protected Areas are now being implemented throughout the coast to attempt restoration of depleted rockfish populations and protection of robust ones.

Although rockfish populations on the North Coast are thought to be in better shape than those down south, Islanders are still concerned. They are concerned about local depletion of rockfish, particularly in places that are persistent fished. Notable concern revolves around areas of intense recreational fishing such as at Skidegate Point and Langara Island. There are questions about the impacts of commercial ‘bycatch’ often unaccounted in fisheries landings. And Islanders are aware of the distressing lack of knowledge around different rockfish species life histories, population status, and ecological connections.

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Islanders agree that lingcod are an important source of food and they are concerned about local depletion and the wider consequences of commercial and recreational fishing. Like rockfish, lingcod in the Strait of Georgia are in trouble. Their numbers are estimated at a small fraction of historic levels and fishers can no longer keep them. On the North Coast, the general consensus is that lingcod populations are not as depressed as those down south. But what state are they really in? No one has the answer. There are impacts on lingcod from various fisheries – commercial bottom trawl, hook and line, and troll fisheries, recreational fisheries and First Nations food fisheries – but the extent of impacts remains unstudied.

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The immense food energy packed in these teeny tiny shrimp-like zooplankton and their sheer abundance feeds immense sea creatures such as blue whales and basking sharks. At the base of marine food webs, zooplankton are critical to the survival of just about every other marine creature at some stage of their life – from juvenile fish to forage fish to adult sockeye salmon to humpback whale. The BC krill fishery is fairly recent and currently limited to south coast inlets. The Islands’ consensus is that the ecological risks of such a fishery are so great that no commercial krill fishery should occur in Haida Gwaii waters.

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Offshore Oil and Gas
People feel the risks to Haida Gwaii’s rich environments are too great to support offshore oil and gas exploration and development. That sums up the view of an overwhelming majority of Islanders. The reasons are many. Suffice it to say that there are too many unknowns, too high a risk to food fisheries, other fisheries and tourism, and local benefits will be limited.

Instead of arguing over the pros and cons of offshore oil and gas, Islanders want to move the conversation forward and look at alternative energy sources that will be more sustainable with the environment over the long term. Wind and tide feature prominently among possible future sources of energy.

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About 100 years ago, halibut was commercially fished rather haphazardly – so much so that fishers began to fear for their survival. This fuelled creation of the International Pacific Halibut Commission, an organization responsible for research on and management of Pacific halibut fisheries in Canadian and US waters. By accounts, they seem to be doing a decent job, although Islanders still have questions. What are the impacts of fisheries on halibut populations around the Islands? How far do halibut migrate? Are there places where they consistently go to spawn, places where the juveniles tend to hang out?

In addition to the hook and line fleet that directly targets halibut, a significant amount of halibut is caught in bottom trawl gear. Radical changes in trawl fleet management have improved discarded halibut ‘bycatch’ since 1996, but it is recognized that the trawl fleet still has impact. Unaccounted halibut ‘bycatch’ also occurs in hook and line fisheries targeting other species such as dogfish.

Fishers living on Haida Gwaii and in other coastal communities have a long history of fishing halibut, though fisher numbers have dwindled with time. There are presently a handful of halibut fishers on Haida Gwaii, including a license held by the Council of the Haida Nation. Islanders are concerned about the trends in declining benefits for First Nations and other coastal communities, concurrent with factors that are limiting access into the fishery.

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Each spring as daylight stretches, tree leaves bud and birds sing, the shorelines teem with life as masses of herring return to spawn. Sea lions, eagles, grey whales, Pacific white-sided dolphins,
Chinook salmon, gulls, ducks, seabirds, sculpins, bat stars and more, feast on returning herring and herring spawn. Haida elders remember when there was so much herring spawn, it stretched throughout Skidegate Inlet and all the way around Burnaby Island. They also remember the bright lights marking factories that rendered over 77,000 tonnes of herring in a single year. The highest estimate of herring biomass around Haida Gwaii was 100,000 tonnes – now there is a fishery when over 10,000 tonnes return. Is 10% really enough?

The lack of herring has been notable in the past decade and a half. Intensive roe herring fisheries since the early 1970s have taken much of the commercial herring quota. A smaller portion has gone to k’aaw – herring roe-on-kelp – fishers, and an even smaller proportion to Haida food fishers. Over and over, Islanders voice concerns about sustainability of the roe fishery. Herring mature around 3 years old and, given the chance, return to spawn again and again over a lifetime spanning up to 10 years. The roe herring fishery is deadly. Egg sacs from females are processed for sale to Japanese markets. Bodies of females and males are reduced to fish meal and oil for use in agricultural and salmon farming industries.

In contrast, most of the herring penned for the k’aaw fishery live and return to spawn again. The herring roe-on-kelp is gathered, trimmed and salted, for transport to processors and markets in Japan. It was Haida people who started the k’aaw fishery and developed the markets a few decades ago.

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Bottom Trawlers or Draggers
Bottom trawling, otherwise known as dragging, is not a pretty sight. Corals, brittle stars, sponges, fishes and invertebrates that happen to be swimming over the ocean floor in the path of a trawl net are swallowed by the gaping maw and finished. In the wake of the net lies a swath of greatly disturbed sea floor.

Some Islanders think there is room for bottom trawling within Haida Gwaii waters. Others feel trawlers should be banned. The Haida banned dragging in Skidegate Inlet many years ago for fear of impacts on food fisheries. Bottom trawling damages sea floor habitat and animals. There is equal concern over the large volume and scope of the catch, much of which was discarded dead fish or ‘bycatch’ unaccounted for in fishery records. Reforms instituted in 1996 addressed some of these concerns – all trawl vessels now have observers on-board and catch reporting has improved to include more detailed catch by species and estimated amounts of discarded catch. Islanders feel a need to better understand the impacts of trawl activities and how trawling fits in with ecosystem-based management for Haida Gwaii waters.

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Razor Clam
It’s hard to believe a clam can ‘run away’ when disturbed, but the razor clam really does. Inexperienced diggers often come up empty-handed. Experienced diggers come up with clam after clam in the blink of an eye. Vital as food, razor clams are also economically important to Old Massett as the majority of licensed diggers are from there. Fish plants in Masset process all razor clams, providing local employment, and supplying both food and bait markets. The fishery is notable as the first to be co-managed by the Council of the Haida Nation and DFO, working together to conduct stock assessment, fishery monitoring and biotoxin testing.

Islanders’ concerns stem around impacts of the recreational and commercial fisheries, razor clam abundance and population health, vehicle traffic on the beach and the use of clams for bait. Many of these issues continue to be addressed through the Haida Fisheries Program stock assessment and monitoring programs. Others might be managed with general codes of conduct for beach traffic.

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Wild Salmon
Salmon is an icon of the BC coast, vital to the survival of First Nations peoples for countless generations, then centre of commercial fisheries for over a century and continuing today. Salmon is a keystone species marking coastal rainforests with an abundance of marine nutrients. Spawning salmon swim up their natal streams, along the way providing food for bears, eagles, people, gulls, river otters, martens. Their carcasses fuel insects and decomposers. Rotted carcasses grow monumental cedars and magnificent spruce trees. Salmon eggs feed fish, birds and bears.

Pacific salmon populations are in trouble. Remnants of Haida fishing weirs belie former salmon abundances not seen in recent years. The current condition of Haida Gwaii’s Pacific salmon species can be said to be average to low when compared to records dating back to 1950. Some populations continue to provide food, recreation and limited commercial fishing. Others like those in southeast Moresby Island have still not recovered from past human activities. What are the consequences of depressed salmon populations on people, forests, bears, marine mammals, birds and others that rely on salmon?

Countless salmon canneries sprung up throughout the early half of the 20th century, including short-lived pink canneries in Massett Inlet. A troll, seine and gillnet fleet fished for salmon migrating to Haida Gwaii streams and those further south. Old Masset and Skidegate were sites of a boat building industry that produced high quality seine boats. Many Haida owned and captained salmon fishing vessels of all sizes, from small open ‘mosquito’ day-fishing skiffs to large seines. Many salmon fishers lived on Haida Gwaii and in other coastal communities, close to the areas they fished. Only a decade or two ago, a local salmon fleet ranging from day fishers to ice and freezer troll boats and seine boats was a vibrant part of the Islands’ life and economy. Today, there are no day fishers, and two handfuls of troll and seine license-holders still on the Islands. Prospects do not inspire young people to make a living fishing salmon.

Islanders want to re-establish a vibrant economy around wild salmon. There is recognition that this cannot be like the past where many fish were caught for low value cannery processing. Concerns about declining salmon abundance and uncertain effects of changing ocean conditions means that wild salmon fisheries should not catch as many fish as before. The future is about catching fewer salmon of high quality with local value-added processing to supply higher value specialized markets. Already innovative fish plants on the Islands are processing an increasing amount of recreational fish, processing for local markets and specialized markets abroad. Revival of the Haida ‘mosquito’ fishing fleet may be part of the answer, allowing more Haida to make a living with wild salmon and making high quality salmon available to local processors. Other innovative discussions include the idea of new commercial licenses that would enable small-scale fishers to supply many different fish specifically to local markets.

Islanders want more say and accountability of salmon fisheries management around Haida Gwaii. How can decision-making behind allocation of salmon resources between the commercial and recreational fishery be made more transparent and fair? At present, a set of rules that apply to one fishery don’t apply to the other – for example, closure of commercial fishing over periods when salmon stocks of concern are migrating past the Islands, yet maintaining recreational fishing effort over the same area. There is a need to understand more about the impacts of salmon fisheries on migrating and local salmon populations and on other fish species. Local fishers see themselves as part of the solution, providing insight into how issues might be addressed and assisting with research.

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Salmon Farming
No salmon farming in Haida Gwaii waters – that is the overwhelming message in discussions about salmon farming. Like offshore oil and gas, most Islanders feel that the many risks associated with salmon farming – disease from overcrowding, sea lice, impacts of wastes, use of antibiotics, impacts of bright lights and scaring devices, escaped and surviving Atlantic salmon, uncertain impacts on wild salmon – are too great to allow open net cage salmon farming.

The Council of the Haida Nation has kept salmon farms out of these waters to date and Islanders want to keep it that way. Islanders want to focus on wild salmon and ensuring that wild salmon populations and fisheries co-exist in perpetuity.

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Shellfish Farming and Other Aquaculture
Shellfish farming has already made its mark on Haida Gwaii with pilot sites established by the Council of the Haida Nation and other Islanders over recent years. The greatest advantage of bivalve farming is that no added feed is necessary – bivalves filter planktonic food out of the water. The greatest disadvantage is that the species of interest, a weathervane scallop and oyster, are both introduced to Haida Gwaii waters. The soother is that oysters are not supposed to spawn in cool Island waters, and weathervane scallops seem to live in localized places under specific habitat conditions so that there is little danger they will spawn and take over a local area. Of course, none of this is guaranteed but the risks seem relatively small compared to other industrial activities.

The major caveat to creating a ‘sustainable’ shellfish farming industry is scale of operation. How large are the operations going to be, how many and where? If these factors can be controlled and shellfish farming developed slowly so that monitoring detects possible negative impacts on local areas, there is a chance of long-term success. The more fundamental questions revolve around privatization of a ‘public’ resource (although this has already happened in some commercial fisheries), local access to a new industry, competition leading to large corporate control, and accountability of bureaucracies who create and issues tenures in absence of meaningful local input.

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In the early 1990s, a float plane swooped down on a canoe bearing Haida people protesting sportsfishing lodges around Langara Island. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Before 1985, there were no sportsfishing lodges along Haida Gwaii’s west coast. By 1990, between Langara Island and Naden Harbour, there were 8 exclusive lodges catering to business people and politicians wanting to ‘catch the big one’. Now, there are over 20 floating and land-based lodges, most along the north and west coasts. Islanders have issues with this industry.

Over a short 20 years, these lodges have moved into remote nooks and crannies, sending out fleets of small open skiffs, often with clients inexperienced at navigating and reading the ocean. They have encroached on traditional Haida fishing and former commercial fishing areas. By 1993, development of land-based lodges had stopped with a moratorium on further foreshore tenures for sportsfishing lodges that was fuelled by Haida inquiry and protests. However, floating lodges continued to creep their way into Island waters – often with no permits, little to no regulation, dumping sewage, cleaners and bilge into remote bays. In recent years, the issue has come to a head. A land-based lodge was built in Port Louis without proper zoning. The Samson floating lodge in Naden Harbour sank. A floating lodge blatantly anchours in Nesto Inlet each year within the Provincial Ecological Reserve and disturbs ancient murrelets during their sensitive nesting and fledging season.

As with many other industries, there is the question of local benefits. Aside from a few guiding, cooking and cleaning jobs, some argue that there are no local benefits. Some lodges say that they do contribute to the Islands’ economy in a meaningful way and that they should not all be tarred with the same brush. Islanders want to see accountability of lodge conduct and monitoring of their catch. For over a decade now, the Haida Fisheries Program has operated a creel survey program at Langara Island and Naden Harbour, interviewing returning fishers at lodges that voluntarily cooperate. Not all lodges comply.

The path to a more satisfactory relationship between Islanders and sportsfishing lodges could begin by developing a Code of Conduct for sportsfishing in Haida Gwaii waters. Specific concerns such as salmon mortality caused by the use of bait and double hooks could be addressed. Accountability of catch, allocation, management and impacts to salmon stocks by the recreational fishery could be improved both on the ground and at the management level. Questions of local benefits could be addressed. Maybe even the ethics and impacts of extensive catch and release sportsfishing.

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Seabird species are numerous and their life cycles equally varied, from ancient murrelets that nest burrowed in the ground to gulls that lay eggs exposed on rocky shores. Haida Gwaii is home to an abundance of seabirds and their nesting colonies. Peregrine falcons thrive here, in part owing to a rich diet of seabirds.

Human activities, particularly industrial ones, can have great negative impacts on seabirds at all times in their life, from nesting to foraging to migrating. Potential impacts of offshore oil and gas and industrial-scale wind farm developments in Hecate Strait are of particular concern to Islanders. Concerns about impacts of long-line fishing have surfaced as well, although seabird mortality has been much reduced with the mandatory use of bird avoidance devices.

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Marine Protected Areas
Touted as an effective tool for fisheries management by some and as a notion with unproven benefits by others, marine protected areas are the focus of debate. A large part of these debates stems from confusion about what they are. If all the jargon is stripped away, marine protected areas are really just a name for areas of ocean that are managed differently, generally more conservatively, than the waters surrounding them. And so marine protected areas are what people make of them and in this sense could provide a very effective tool for people who increasing seek local management of the waters and resources around them.

Like many other Islands issues, the cornerstone is local control. Islanders want clear context of policies, how they relate to on-the-grounds management, and well-defined roles and relationships between First Nations, local, provincial and federal governments. Islanders want to understand the benefits of marine protected areas in addition to management implications for surrounding areas. They need assurance that monitoring and adaptive management can and will be used to gauge success.

With dynamic local decision-making, it is possible for Islanders to use marine protected areas as a tool to benefit Haida Gwaii ecosystems and communities.

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