Thursday, August 13, 2009

Commercial fisherman plight makes the media rounds

With the 'collapse' of the Fraser River sockeye run and the Skeena sockeye run also returning under forecasts, the salmon fishery is receiving quite a bit of mainstream media attention nowadays in British Columbia.
For example, the North Coast UFAWU (United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union) Representative was interviewed on CBC Radio yesterday.

The Rep basically outlined the 'plight' of the commercial fishermen on the north coast this season. She characterized this year as possibly the 3rd worst in the last 50 for fishermen, particularly the gillnetters.
The Rep noted that the average gillnetter will make $3000 this summer, mostly from the small Nass sockeye fishery which provided an average of 400 sox per boat. (average sockeye size of 5lbs and being paid $ This would probably be 'gross' income before deducting operating costs such as fuel,moorage, and upkeep on the boat. Suffice to say the margins are pretty thin for fishermen this year.

The Rep also noted this is the 3rd year in a row of poor fishing. The last "good year" for fishers was 2006.

The Rep continued by describing how such successive poor years creates a safety hazard for fishermen as they cannot afford to properly maintain their boats. Moreover, she asserts fishermen are stuck with boats/licenses they bought at higher prices and better markets....and now cant sell out to exit the failing industry.

The Rep did make mention of DFO having the gall to charge the gillnetters $650 in license fees to go and make only $3000....

She says this isnt 'overfishing to blame' for the low sockeye....The cause of low returns is either unknown mortality in-river, between the lake and the ocean, or it is something happening in the ocean.

The Rep did note other species returned in good numbers this season, especially coho, but bemoaned the fact gillnetters are not allowed to retain coho. The Rep says steelhead numbers "...are huge..." this year and this was stated very emphatically.

Overall, the CBC Radio interviewer was very sympathetic to the "plight" of the commercial fishermen, rather than asking probing questions about what this season really reflects in the state of the industry.

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