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Guy Dauncey, Editor
395 Conway Road, Victoria, BC
Tel (250) 881-1304

Executive director of The Solutions Project



Newsletter No. 70 - Serving Vancouver Island's Environmental Community - March 1998


For countless aeons, here on the west coast, the March new moon (March 13th) was the Moon of the Herring Spawn. Great schools of herring would come into bays all over the Island to spawn, and the Nuu'chah'nulth, Salish and Kwagiulth peoples would lower branches of cedar or hemlock into the water,leaving them to collect the spawn with lines attached to rocks. After one or two days,the men would raise the branches, white with spawn, and the women would dry and store them away in cedar boxes for the winter months ahead.

The native fishery is still practiced, but today, the real event in mid-March is the commercial herring fishery - a few hours of craziness that can net a boat's owners million dollars, not for the herring but for its eggs, the roe, which is a great delicacy in Japan. The herring itself is turned into fishmeal or dug into the ground in trenches.

Twenty years ago, there were herring spawning grounds all over the Strait of Georgia. Today, they have all but vanished - all except one, around Denman and Hornby Islands. In 1990, Jake Schweigert, the DFO's senior herring biologist, concluded that "alarming trends" were underway in the south coast herring populations. He found 170 locations where herring used to spawn in abundance before 1980 which were severely depleted or barren by 1990 - Porlier Pass, Trincomali Channel, Bedwell Harbour, Saturna Island, Kuper Island, Thetis Island, Saanich Inlet, Simoon Sound, Saltery Bay, Pender Harbour, Texada Island and many more. Where the herring spawning grounds used to be measured in beach-miles, there are now none.

The commercial roe-fishery began in 1972, working its way around all these bays and inlets. At Nanoose Bay, they took 10,000 tons in 1978, 1,800 tons in 1983, and there have been no herring since.

At Coffin Point, near Ladysmith, families from the Cowichan, Malahat, Nanaimo and Penelakut bands would meet every year with families from the Chemainus band to conduct their spawn-on-branches fishery, which they call chummish. In 1990,  the  seiners came and took 3,600 tons, and the herring have never returned. The 1989 chummish fishery was the last traditional herring roe fishery held anywhere in the Strait of Georgia. (Thanks to Terry Glavin & the Georgia Strait)

Globally, our track record in managing the world's fisheries is abysmal. As overfishing depletes prized species like snapper, tuna, cod and swordfish, commercial fishermen are moving further down the marine foodchain. If this quest is pursued to its logical end, scientists warn, it will lead to the wholesale collapse of marine ecosystems. (William Stevens, New York Times).

David Pauly, a fisheries biologist at UBC, has worked with other scientists to compile a worldwide study of this trend, monitoring the downward shift from Level 1 (the top predators, such as sharks, tuna and swordfish) to the lower levels. (Level 4 consists of grass, detritus and algae). Different fish are placed in different levels, according to their feeding habits.

By combining all the data, the scientists show that the global trophic level of fish catches has declined from 3.7 to 3.4 since the 1950s, and probably further. If this trend continues, Pauly says, many marine food webs will be 'collapsing in on themselves' in 3 or 4 decades. On the east coast, where cod stocks have collapsed, the fishing industry is concentrating on the cod's prey, shrimp. But without the shrimp, how can the cod ever recover ?

Herring is the primary food for coho and chinook salmon; with the herring vanishing, is it any wonder that salmon stocks are collapsing ? But the herring are also a major food source for goldeneye, harlequin duck, grebes, loons, bufflehead, scoters, scaups, eagles, mew and herring gulls, old squaw, cormorant and marine mammals. The whole breeding cycle of these creatures depends on the herring migrations. It is folly of the highest order to remove such a major player in the food chain.

In 1997, there was a huge herring fishery in the Denman/Hornby area. Out of the 14,500 ton quota for the Georgia Strait, Denman/Hornby took 8,400 tons,. There was more herring in the Strait than in any year since 1951 - so the Department of Fisheries and Oceans think they are doing a great job.

David Ellis, on the other hand, a former commercial troller with an international track record for his knowledge and competence, fears that the remnants of dozens of migratory and non-migratory stocks, driven to behavioural extremes by overfishing, may be balling together in a single, huge mass as a last desperate survival tactic. The truth is, nobody knows if the herring consist of different stocks or one stock. In ignorance, we risk disaster.

The remedy is simple, but painful to the fishing fleet : manage the herring in the Strait of Georgia from an ecosystem perspective, and designate them a food source for marine mammals, salmon and waterbirds.

- Guy Dauncey


Published as a monthly service, nourishing the vision of an Island blessed by the harmony of nature and community, funded by your donations.

Jan Feb March
Circulation: 2300 2200 2200
Cost: $805 $916 $850
Editorial: $150 $150 $150
Donations: $765 $280 ? ? ?
Advertising: $120 $130 ? ? ?
Balance: $2039 $1283 ? ? ?

Many thanks this month to Carolyn MacDonald, Miriam Thorn, Duncan Taylor, Patrick Fawkes, Katey Bloomfield, Thelma Macmurchie, Rob Pettigrew, M. Harvey, Daphne Cuthill & Gail Schultz. Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1.

Donations can be made to EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1. If you don't want to receive EcoNews, or are going away, please let us know - it avoids wasting the postage. To receive EcoNews call (250) 881-1304, or email


EcoNews reaches its 70th issue today, for which we can all be very proud. Many more to come ! Greetings to all our readers, and to the merry band of volunteers who come out each month to laugh, fold, stuff and enjoy dessert
- anyone can join us ! A special thanks to Teresa Lindner, who has prepped the envelopes each month for the last 5 years. She has just stepped down, so we need a new volunteer. It involves sticking the labels onto 1,000 envelopes while watching TV (or whatever), and adding the return address stamp. Please call me if you think you can help. Guy, 881-1304.


Margaret Mead is the famous anthropologist who spoke the much quoted sentence : "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Here's
what she said on her deathbed to Jean Houston, as recalled by Joseph Roberts, editor of Vancouver's Common Ground Magazine : "Forget everything I have been teaching you about working with government and bureaucracies. I have been lying here being an anthropologist on my own dying, a fascinating experience; there's no hierarchy to it. And I realize that if we are going to grow and green our time, it is people getting together and teaching learning communities. I have had a revelation - God, I wish I could live long enough to see it through ! People have to grow together. They have to do physical, mental, psychological, spiritual processes together. And as they deepen, and hold each other's dreams, by God, they go out and make a difference."


The Friends of the Slocan benefit dance for the ecoforestry struggle in the Slocan Valley raised an amazing $4,900. If you want to join the local campaign, call Peter Ronald at 361-3621.

EARTHWEEK April 18th - 26th

On Sunday April 22nd, 1990, some 200 million people in 141 countries participated in local Earth Day activities to create the largest organized event in peacetime history. The Vancouver Island Earthworks Society coordinated local events then, and has done so ever since. So this is an invitation to you to organize something for this year's Earthweek among your friends, or any society you are involved with - a parade, a day trip to the beach, a ceremony or spiritual service, a meditation, eco-rave, seminar, workshop, guided walk, community clean-up, coffee house, art show, community vision-building exercise, street party. This year's theme is 'Building Community'. The deadline for the Earthweek Diary is March 27th - contact Doug Koch, 383-5765, Let the spirit soar ! Volunteers are also needed to help with the big EarthWalk on Sunday April 25th -call Roy McFarlane 386-3786


Rick Searle has just come back from an epic 30,000 km trip visiting 19 national parks throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and the Prairies, adding to his intimate knowledge of the Rocky Mountain parks. He is very alarmed about the loss of wilderness and the failing ecological health of the parks, and is giving a slide show presentation on the parks, and what can be done to reverse the trend, on March 26th (see Green Diary). He's also preparing a book to be published next year by the World Wildlife Fund and David Suzuki Foundation.  598-0199.


Anyone have experience with a front-loading clothes washer ?   Call 595-1279
Charming, bright bachelor apartment near Crystal Pool, close to downtown.
Organic garden space. N.S./N.P. Available Mar 1. Bill & Jackie 361-9446.


Now you know how to contact them !

Jean Chretien, PM (613) 941-6900
Herb Gray, Deputy PM (613) 995-3259
David Anderson, Fisheries (613) 952-1458
Lloyd Axworthy, Foreign Affairs (613) 953-2867
Don Boudria, House Leader (613) 996-9123
David Collenette, Transport (613) 995-1686
Sheila Copps, Heritage  (613) 992-2727
Herb Dhaliwal, Revenue (613) 995-2962
Stephane Dion, Intergovernmental Affairs (613) 996-6562
Arthur Eggleton, Defense (613) 941-2421
Alfonso Gagliano, Public Works & Government Services (613) 996-9768
Ralph Goodale, Resources (613) 996-2358
John Manley, Industry (613) 995-1534
Sergio Marchi, International Trade (613) 947-4452
Diane Marleau, Intergovernmental Cooperation (613)995-2569
Paul Martin, Finance (613) 992-4291
Marcel Masse, Treasury (613) 941-2421
Anne McLellan, Justice (613) 943-0044
Fred Mifflin, Veterans (613) 992-7277
Pierre Pettigrew, Human Resources Development (613) 995-9926
Lucienne Robillard, Citizenship and Immigration (613) 995-8632
Allan Rock, Health  (613) 947-4276
Andy Scott, Solicitor General (613) 996-9955
Christine Stewart, Environment (613) 995-7536
Jane Stewart, Indian Affairs (613) 992-6382
Lyle Vanclief, Agriculture (613) 996-8652


Fancy having a large Earth Flag, ready for Earthweek in April ? Every home should have one ! For a colour brochure, write to PO Box 108-E3, Middleville, NJ 07855, or call (201) 579-7889.


Can you imagine it ? Trails like the Galloping Goose stretching all the way from Victoria to Cape Scott, with connector trails stretching out to the Brooks Peninsula, Tahsis, Gold River, Tofino, Bamfield and Port Renfrew.
Well, keep on visualizing, because one day, it's going to come true - the work has already started. On March 20th - 22nd, there's a major Speakers Forum and Information Fair at the Crystal Garden and St Ann's Academy, called 'Local Greenways and the Trans Canada Trail : Connecting Home and Country', covering trails, greenways, and land and stream stewardship initiatives and all sorts of presentations, design groups and progress reports. The Trans Canada Trail National AGM will be happening during the Forum, as will the Streamkeepers and the Land Trust Alliance of B.C., so this will be a big-time opportunity for connecting. Registration is $20, plus $20 for the Awards Dinner. Call the Provincial Capital Commission (386-1356) for details, or if you want to mount a display or present information. For details of the Land Trust meeting, call (250) 538-0112 or email Sheila at


                A bike ! A bike ! My Island for a bike !

                Oh, that the sweetest lanes and mountaintops
                should not with foul assault be shaven,
                worthlessly to fall from glorious gold
                into the lost debris of myths that once were golden.

                For doth this Island that we love so much
                touch not the very heavens with its grace?
                Do not the eagles e'en look down with joy
                as in its air they spire their ancient dance ?

                What fools be we, if in our late arriving,
                do so destroy the place of our arrival,
                burying deep its heart, its soul
                in the rubble of our building ?

                Such is the brilliance of excess,
                the wisdom that can only see
                delight in a supermarket trolley,
                not a tree.

                Bring then a bike, a train, a humble bus
                that we should change this climate in our souls
                before we burn this planet on our coals;
                this appetite will be the death of us.

                A bike ! A tram ! A rollerblade !
                than pave this heaven someone made.
                Take hence this thing that's hagged its might
                into the mare of all our nights.

                In place of haste and rush and greed
                let's place sweet limits on our speed,
                and in constraint, let's say a prayer
                for bikes - God bless them, everywhere.

                             GD, with apologies to Shakespeare
                                   (a 70th edition indulgence)


The MAI - the highly controversial Multilateral Agreement on Investment which the 29 nations of the OECD have been negotiating in Paris - has fallen off the rails. This does not mean that it is dead, but the treaty-makers have failed to reach sufficient agreement to meet their late April deadline.

According to the news agency Reuters, 'Standoffs over U.S. trade sanctions and movie subsidies sank attempts on Tuesday to pave the way for a global OECD treaty designed to liberalize and protect hundreds of billions of dollars in cross-border investments. "It's basically as good as dead in the water for now," one European delegate said.'

The treaty has broken down over differences between the nations about 'carve-outs', such as Canada and France's demand for cultural exemptions, inter-European trade arrangements, French trade with Iran, America's boycott of Cuba, and public procurement policies in US states. Underlying these disagreements lies a deeper concern about the loss of national sovereignty, and the massive protests which non-governmental organizations
have organized over the last 9 months.

In mid-February, a coalition of 565 international NGOs (including 90 Canadian organizations) issued a joint statement, saying that the treaty was not acceptable in its present form and demanding that negotiations be
halted. Among the reasons given was that "The MAI fails to incorporate any of the several relevant international agreements such as the Rio Declaration; Agenda 21; UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection (1985); the UNCTAD Set of Multilaterally Agreed Principles for the Control of Restrictive Business Practices  (1981); the Beijing Declaration on Women and the HABITAT Global Plan of Action."

The MAI is not dead, but it has definitely suffered a huge setback, and this is all due to the massive organizing by the world's NGOs - Non-Governmental Organizations - community and citizens groups who were outraged by this secretive attempt to rewrite the world's rules in favour of big corporations and investors at the expense of local communities, culture, social justice and the environment. It was these protests that shook the negotiators, and alerted the world to what was going on. Without the Internet, this level of protest would not have been possible. The MAI setback is a substantial illustration of the power which the Internet gives to NGOs around the world; we have yet to grasp its true potential for facilitating change.


Jackie Robson (who organizes voluntary simplicity groups here in Victoria, 361-9446) was recently invited to a friend's baby shower. But what to do ? Baby showers have become massive consumer binges, sending the message to the baby's soul that this is what life is about. So instead of buying more "stuff", Jackie set about researching something different, and ended up buying stock in the Clean Environment Fund, complete with a beautiful certificate stating "The Sum of One Hundred Dollars has been invested in the Clean Environment Fund on Behalf of Damon Alex. The proceeds come due on his 18th birthday, in the year 2016. May the Air, Water and Trees of this Our beautiful Remembered Earth continue to Support and Nourish His Life." Yea, Jackie ! How's that for starting a whole new tradition ?


The details of the crisis are on the cover page. So straight to the action !

(1) Write to David Anderson, Minister of Fisheries & Oceans, House of Commons, Ottawa K1A 0A6 (no stamp needed), expressing your concern, asking that the herring fishery be managed on a full marine ecosystem basis, and that the herring be designated for salmon, birds and marine mammals, rather than for human consumption.

(2) Write to or call Dennis Streifel, the new minister in the brand new provincial Ministry of Fisheries, Legislative Assembly, Victoria V8V 1X4, Tel 356-2735, with the same request.


EcoNews provides this electronic version of the newsletter free of charge even though it costs time and money to produce. Please feel free to repost. You can help by making a donation, whether $5 or $100, to:

EcoNews, 395 Conway Road, Victoria, B.C. V8X 3X1, Canada. Thanks !

Click here for previous issues of EcoNews.

EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
395 Conway Road, Victoria V8X 3X1
Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Available free by mail or email

Author of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)

EcoNews is printed on Tree-Free paper from Ecosource