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1 Haida Gwaii Northern Abalone Stewardship Program Community Workshop Summary Old Massett, 10 March 2001 Skidegate, 11 March 2001 partner groups Council of the Haida Nation Haida Fisheries Program Laskeek Bay Conservation Society World Wildlife Fund Canada Haida Gwaii Marine Resources Group Association Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve/ Haida Heritage Site Fisheries and Oceans Environment Canada

2 INTRODUCTION The Haida Gwaii Northern Abalone Stewardship Program is a community-based program led by the Haida Fisheries Program in partnership with the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society, Haida Gwaii Marine Resources Group Association, World Wildlife Fund Canada, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve/Haida Heritage Site, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Environment Canada. It was initiated in July 2000 with funding from the Government of Canada Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk. The objective of the Program is to promote stewardship of abalone throughout Haida Gwaii and explore abalone rebuilding strategies. A common community goal was proposed of restoring abalone populations to selfsustaining levels that could support food fisheries. FOCUS of WORKSHOPS workshop speakers In March 2001, two community workshops were held on Haida Gwaii to share information, provide a forum for discussion about community concerns around Haida Gwaii abalone and to engage community members in developing a Community Action Plan for the rebuilding of abalone populations around the Islands. Each workshop began with introductions from local community leaders, followed by presentations from visiting and local researchers: Ernie Collison, Administrator, Council of the Haida Nation, spoke about the cultural significance of abalone to the Haida people, and his personal experiences and perspective on the commercial abalone fishery and its consequences for the Haida community. He concluded with suggestions and comments about how our communities can work together to restore abalone to our kitchen tables, feasts, ceremonies and economy. Percy Williams, Haida Elder, discussed Haida traditional use of abalone. He observed that abalone stocks had declined with the start of the commercial dive fishery and raised concerns about recovery of the stocks unless there are changes to the commercial dive fisheries. Alan Campbell, Senior Scientist, Pacific Biological Station, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, described the status of abalone around Haida Gwaii, noting that abalone populations have not rebuilt and could be in further decline, after 10 years of coastwide fishery closures. Possible factors limiting the recovery of abalone stocks include the effects of low population levels on reproduction and significant amounts of continued poaching. Gary Davis, Senior Scientist, Channel Islands National Park, California, told the story of serial depletion of abalone species in California and how they have tried to deal with abalone population declines. Commercial fisheries first depleted shallow water species and then moved on to deeper water species. After only 7 years of commercial fishing, one of the deep water species, the white abalone, was reduced from thousands of animals per hectare to about 1 per hectare! Although rebuilding initiatives in California have largely been unsuccessful, they show that the most effective regulations are the ones which have community buy-in. Bart DeFreitas, Program Biologist, Haida Fisheries Program presented information about the Haida Gwaii Northern Abalone Stewardship Project and reviewed abalone surveys and research work which have been conducted by the Haida Fisheries Program over the past few years. Abalone projects have included baseline population and habitat surveys, tagging experiments to look at abalone growth rates and mobility, collection of genetic samples from around the Islands, and participation in long-term DFO abalone surveys. Haida Fisheries Program is suggesting that two areas where much of the work has been done be Page 2

3 set aside as Abalone Stewardship Areas. These areas are in the vicinity of existing Watchmen Camps and could provide a focus for community abalone rebuilding efforts. community action plan abalone stewardship areas A question and answer period with general discussion followed each speaker. After all presentations were delivered, workshop participants were asked to brainstorm thoughts and action items to help develop a Community Action Plan to address issues and concerns surrounding abalone around Haida Gwaii. These discussions were wide-ranging but generally focussed on four topics: Monitoring and enforcement, Rebuilding strategies, Commercial dive fisheries and Haida traditional use. As mentioned above, two Abalone Stewardship Areas were proposed. One is located in the north in the vicinity of Langara Island and Naden Harbour and another in the south in the vicinity of upper Juan Perez Sound. Both areas were of high importance to the Haida community and portions were closed to the commercial abalone fishery during the period of the fishery. It was proposed that stewardship activities would initially focus on these areas and that the approach could be applied to other areas over time. The proposal included monitoring of abalone populations in the areas to provide feedback to the community about the success of their efforts. Feedback was requested on the location and boundaries of the proposed areas. Page 3

4 WORKSHOP SUMMARY Following is a summary of the discussions that took place at the two community workshops. MONITORING and ENFORCEMENT There was general agreement that current monitoring and enforcement of the present abalone harvesting closure around Haida Gwaii was inadequate due to lack of funding, resources and political will. Monitoring and enforcement activities around the Islands have not resulted in charges or convictions. There is widespread knowledge in the community that illegal harvesting for commercial purposes continues. It is openly acknowledged that a few members of the Haida community continue to harvest for food and traditional use purposes. Some local residents and visitors may also occasionally harvest recreationally. But most believed that Haida traditional use and recreational harvests were very small compared to harvesting of abalone to sell on the black market. Many acknowledged the need for increased monitoring and enforcement to curb Island-wide harvesting activities and to ensure that abalone rebuilding efforts are not being undermined. Recognizing that the Haida Gwaii coastline is very remote, strategies for addressing inadequate monitoring and enforcement focussed on developing a community-based program. points of discussion The main points of discussion are summarized below: Seek political support and provide more human and monetary resources to monitoring and enforcement activities; Involve the Council of the Haida Nation Guardians and Watchmen (both Haida Fisheries Watchmen at the north end and Haida Heritage Site Watchmen at the south end of the Islands), other local residents and unemployed fishers in monitoring activities; Empower Guardians and Watchmen to stop and seize vessels until federal enforcement personnel arrive, when illegal harvesting activities are observed; Establish a volunteer-based monitoring program to observe, record and report potential illegal harvesting activities. Encourage the participation of tour operators, fishers, boaters, kayakers or others who frequent the remote coastline of Haida Gwaii; Establish field outposts in strategic locations in the vicinity of abalone beds (and Abalone Stewardship Areas) to facilitate monitoring of activities in the area; Use abalone sniffer dogs to inspect vessels; Establish a Tips line similar to Crime Stoppers to be maintained by fines collected from illegal harvesting charges; Ensure that a local monitor is present on the grounds during commercial dive fisheries; and Increase frequency of underwater monitoring and enforcement activities in cooperation with the Haida Fisheries Program during commercial dive fisheries. Page 4

5 COMMERCIAL DIVE FISHERIES Some participants cited illegal harvesting of abalone by the commercial dive fisheries as the main reason why abalone populations have not recovered. Dive fisheries for geoduck, red sea urchin and sea cucumber did not become prevalent in Haida Gwaii until a few years before the coastwide abalone fishery closure in Several people had stories about others seeing abalone being transported off-island. No commercial dive fishers attended the workshops, but it is known that most are adamant they do not harvest abalone. A recent industry newsletter acknowledged that this may have happened in the past, but claims that this is not a problem at present. At the same time, they urge fishers to report any offenders. Suggestions were made to encourage the divers to participate in the active stewardship of abalone by providing on-going observations and information about abalone in areas where they harvest. Such a volunteer observation program could be developed by the Haida Fisheries Program to include user-friendly data forms. As mentioned above, suggestions were made to close commercial dive fisheries around all or parts of Haida Gwaii; however, cooperative efforts were also viewed in a positive light. HAIDA TRADITIONAL USE points of discussion Participants recognized that some Haida food harvesting of abalone was taking place. In respect of this knowledge, discussion centered around setting guidelines for responsible use of the resource, including the following key points: Openly acknowledge Haida food harvesting and traditional use as a legal activity; Set Council of the Haida Nation guidelines for harvest to include factors such as minimal population densities for permitted harvesting, harvesting only in the intertidal by handpicking, restricting times when abalone can be harvested, and supervised harvesting for specific uses only; Establish an effective catch and use reporting system which is respected by all Haida harvesters, to allow the fishery to be monitored; Establish a penalty system to include publishing names of individuals who do not comply with Council of the Haida Nation guidelines; and Establish acceptable guidelines for Haida to share limited harvested abalone both within and outside of the Haida community. REBUILDING STRATEGIES Rebuilding through natural means was seen as the preferred method. It was also recognized that the DFO coastwide closure to all abalone harvesting had not been effective. Several key rebuilding strategies were discussed. As a first step, activities would center around establishing two Abalone Stewardship Areas and targeting these areas for increased monitoring and surveillance. These would serve as research areas to establish baseline ecological and stock assessment data and provide areas to test and monitor the effectiveness of experimental rebuilding techniques. Many felt that the commercial dive fishery was responsible for taking abalone while legally harvesting red sea urchins and geoducks. Some proposed closing commercial dive fisheries over some or all of the Haida Gwaii coastline as necessary to rebuild abalone populations. Page 5

6 points of discussion The main points of discussion about rebuilding abalone populations are summarized below: Dedicate more funding towards abalone rebuilding efforts, including the dedication of fines from illegal commercial abalone harvesting towards abalone stewardship programs; Establish some form of protected area for special management such as the Abalone Stewardship Areas proposed above; Experiment with rebuilding strategies within Abalone Stewardship Areas and monitor their effectiveness. Possible methods were aggregating broodstock to increase the potential for successful fertilization, and removal of competitors such as red sea urchins to facilitate the growth of more extensive kelp forests and reduce competition for space and food; Conduct baseline surveys in conjunction with commercial dive fisheries to provide an additional monitoring presence; Consider abalone farming and/or release of hatchery abalone as a method to rebuild; and Close down all commercial dive and other fisheries. Calls for closures ranged widely from only the proposed Abalone Stewardship Areas to the entire coastline of the Islands. Other proposals included all known abalone beds and all of DFO Statistical Area 2E. HOWA and many thanks to all participants in the March 2001 workshops. With your help, we have moved forward and completed a draft Community Action Plan. That Plan sets a goal of rebuilding abalone populations to self-sustaining levels that could support food fisheries. Presentations and follow-up public meetings are planned for February We look forward to your valuable input into the draft Community Action Plan!

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