Salmon on shoreline result of lost load

  • Sep. 22, 2010 4:00 p.m.

A rare combination of too many fish and too few fishing boats led to the stinky wash-up of pink salmon on the shores of Port Clements earlier this month, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Haida Gwaii resource manager Victor Fradette said no laws were broken and that there was no conservation concern with the hundreds of dead fish. The fish died after they were caught by a seine boat in Masset Inlet that could not take them on deck because it was too full, Mr. Fradette said. The seine fisherman tried to find another boat to take on the load but was unsuccessful. The fisherman spent quite a bit of time and effort trying to find a solution before he had to release the netted fish, which were dead by that point, Mr. Fradette said. After a few days, the decomposing fish washed up on shore. Mr. Fradette estimated there were 3,000 to 4,000 of them. That compares with a total catch of pinks in Masset Inlet of well over 200,000, he said. The commercial fishery for pink salmon in Masset Inlet opened Aug. 27 and closed Aug. 30. It’s the first time in at least 10 years that there has been a fishery in that area, Mr. Fradette said. There were so many pinks in the inlet that you could see the fish boiling off the dock in Port Clements, he said, with lots of opportunities for sports fisherman also. This year’s unexpectedly high pink return, plus a huge sockeye return down south, meant that boats and packers were busy all over the coast, he explained. Only four seiners participated in the Masset Inlet fishery and there were more fish than they could catch. Because all the packers were down south, the four boats all had to travel to Prince Rupert to unload their catch before they could take more. “In this situation, it was pretty obvious that the fishing capacity was beyond the available fish,” Mr. Fradette said. The boats try to catch as many fish as possible before heading to Rupert, but “there’s that fine line between catching just enough and catching too much,” he said. Mr. Fradette said there is a silver lining to the story, with reports that some residents gathered the dead fish to use as compost. There was one other commercial pink opening on the islands, in upper Darwin Sound, Mr. Fradette said. This fishery was open for 10 days and it also had more fish than boats. Mr. Fradette said this was the first time he’s been involved in the management of a fishery where there wasn’t enough boat capacity for the available fish.