Chinook closure “devastating” for fishers, plant workers

  • Jul. 13, 2011 12:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Haida Gwaii jobs were flushed out to sea with the closure of the commercial troll Chinook fishery in late June. “It’s been pretty devastating,” said Al Frick of CB Island Fisheries, a processing plant in Masset. “A lot of work has been lost.” Mr. Frick said staff at the processing plant will be out three to four weeks of work, not to mention the other business lost to the local economy with the trollers not in Masset buying groceries and gassing up for their runs. The closure notice was sent out by Fisheries and Oceans Canada on June 21 after too many West Coast Vancouver Island chinook salmon had been caught. The lines had only been in the water for 12 days (the fishery opened on June 9) and during that time 66,000 Chinook were caught – just over half the allowable catch for the season. The maximum number of West Coast Vancouver Island salmon North Coast fishermen are allowed to catch within their quota is three percent. But a DNA sampling of 661 of the fish caught revealed that seven percent were from WCVI. According to DFO, the Vancouver Island stock is weak and that area hasn’t been seeing good returns of late. Meanwhile, many North Coast fishermen hadn’t even gotten on the water before the fishery was closed. Bruce Stewart-Burton of Masset said he was still working on his boat when the closure came. “I didn’t even get one fish off my quota,” he said. Now he’s lost his $1,400 investment in the license and he won’t be able to get any of the 468 fish he’s allocated. Plus, he says, there are more fish out there than anyone has seen in years. “It’s a huge run. It should be reassessed,” he said. But DFO area chief resource manager Dale Gueret said that the department doesn’t have the tools for that. He also noted the trollers decided themselves to open the fishery a week earlier than usual. He said DFO cautioned them that the WCVI salmon are likely around in more abundance earlier in the year, “but industry make that decision,” he said. Mr. Gueret said DFO may consider re-opening the troll Chinook fishery after September 8 when their records indicate no WCVI fish will be around. Mr. Stewart Burton is not heartened by this news. He said that by September, the sportfishing lodges will have creamed the stocks. “We’re left with the dregs.” What gets his goat is that the sporties will likely be catching WCVI fish all summer, indicating that DFO doesn’t really care about the health of the stock. He says DFO is out to kill the commercial industry. “Fisheries doesn’t have a care in the world for the commercial fishery,” he said. Mr. Gueret explained that DFO’s 1999 allocation policy does place recreational fishing ahead of the commercial fishery. Conservation is their first priority, then the First Nations food fishery, then recreational interests. Commercial fisheries are opened if abundance permits. He also noted the commercial coho fishery opens on July 15.

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