Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chinook opening results

Just thought we would look at the opening days results for the gillnet chinook fishery in Area 4 Skeena.
June 12 88 boats took part in the 30 hour opening and caught:
1102 chinook and 49 sockeye and 28 steelhead releases. The steelhead arent fresh run, they are kelts returning to the ocean. Poor buggers get hammered coming and going. The DFO update provided only mentions 'releases' not the condition of the fish when released. Remember this opening is conducted with non-possession, non-retention of all steelhead encountered whether DOA or alive are released.
Interesting, the steelhead information is not provided on the DFO website in the usual catch statistics page. This isnt unusual really, as DFO neglects to provide any steelhead encounter, release, or killed stats from commercial fisheries for the public. Cant really blame them on a certain level, as the source of the info is so suspect that most people wouldnt believe the stats anyway. Maybe if fisheries, like the seine ITQ fishery, had independant observers that corroborated the catch stats, but without verification steelhead numbers provided by commercial fishers will always be viewed with suspicion....even by DFO themselves.
Just out of interest let's examine the economics of this opening. 1102 chinook divided between 88 boats is only 12 per boat. Let's say an average mature chinook equals about 20lbs. So 12 chinook times 20lbs equals 240 lbs of fish for each boat. Last year the wholesale price to fishermen was approx. $3.50 per pound so we'll multiply 240lbs by $3.50 and get the average gross pay to fishermen for this trip was $840.00. Minus fuel and other costs of course. So, for a 30 hour opening the average fisher made approx. $28.00 per hour gross. This still doesnt come close to the value a sport caught chinook would generate to the economy.
Now 50 sockeye isnt an awful lot of bycatch but it again shows these supposedly chinook size selective nets are just a commercial industry myth. Sockeye are fairly small so this shows any size fish can get tangled up just as readily in a large mesh 'chinook' gillnet as a regular 'sockeye' gillnet. Plus, this large mesh chinook gillnet wouldnt know the difference between a 20lb steelhead and a 20lb chinook. Think about it, steelhead kelts are pretty snakey-skinny and yet they can still get caught in this large mesh size.
This Area 4 gillnet chinook fishery opened much later last year on July 7/8 and they caught 2,236 chinook and 500 or so sockeye. This season's high water has hampered the catch with most fishers not fishing overnight due to debris in the water.

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