Friday, July 09, 2010

Newspaper article on Skeena fishery

Interesting article from the Prince Rupert Daily News outlining the poor fishing season for gillnetters. Plus, taking some shots at the growing sportfishery in Chatham Sound.
Obviously written prior to the announcement in the last post.

Where have all the gill nets gone

By Monica Lamb-Yorski - The Daily News

After a 30-hour gill net fishery opening between June 24 and 25 on the Nass River, fisherman Nick Stevens was able to sell six chinook and 85 sockeye. He kept a seventh chinook because a seal had eaten some of it.

There’s a scheduled opening for July 12 for gill net in Area 3, 6 and 8.

Stevens feels that might be a bit early, but admitted some fish have been showing up earlier than normal, perhaps because of the slow snowpack.

Stevens will also wait around because he’s hoping the Skeena River might open later this month, but he isn’t holding his breath.

“Right now DFO is estimating a run size of 633,000 for the Skeena.

“They need 1.1 million for the river to open and want to see 1.5 million before they will actually open it,” he said.

According to Joy Thorkelson of the United Fishermen and Allied Worker’s Union, the average gill net fisherman caught four chinook this year. There were 135 gillnetters that brought in a total of 746 chinook.

Comparing those numbers to previous years, 253 gillnetters went out in 2003 and 409 in 2004.

In its latest North Coast Salmon Update dated June 29, DFO said it is the lowest chinook catch for this fishery, when comparing to previous years’ catches.

No further chinook gill net fishery is being planned unless the run size increases significantly.

Thorkelson said she’s avoiding thinking about the fishing season. “That’s how bad it is,” she added.

The report also indicated a total of 150 commercial fishermen caught 3512 sockeye, three pink, 43 chum and 199 chinook on June 15.

On June 21, 168 commercial fishermen caught 5111 sockeye, 45 pink, 268 chum and 168 chinook.

“It’s pretty tough right now. Two hundred and eighteen out of our 658 fishermen have gone out. We used to have 1,200 gill netters in the 1990s,” Thorkelson commented.

In reference to the North Coast Troll that opened on June 15 for Chinook and pink salmon, the estimated catch to date is about 29,000, out of a troll total allowable catch of 107,100.

There are 122 troll vessels hailed out. A gear count on opening day by the FPV Arrow Post counted 88 trollers operating, said the report.

And while DFO’s early forecast for the Total Return for Canada for Nass sockeye appears to be slightly below the average return of 648,000,

Harry Nyce, Director of Fish & Wildlife for the Nisga’a Lisms Government, said the numbers aren’t surprising.

“We’re basically holding our own regarding sockeye, are a bit concerned about chum and the chinook are lagging behind,” Nyce told the Daily News.

Nyce has been involved with fisheries on the Nass River since 1987 and after the Nisga’a Treaty was signed in 2000, became Director of Fish & Wildlife for the Nisga’a Government.

According to Nyce, the Nisga’a use a Fish Wheel Program for managing the fisheries, and have specified an escapement goal of at least 200,000 salmon for spawning in Meziadan Lake.

“We are quite firm on those numbers for reasons that other places are collapsing,” Nyce explained.

When asked about the presence of sports fishing on the Nass, Nyce explained under the Nisga’a Treaty there were fish charters that were grandfathered in and the Nisga’s Fisheries department is firm on helping them maintain their abilities.

However, Nyce emphasized, it is a privilege to operate a sports fishery and those operators should be aware when they are asked to curtail operations they need to heed those requests.

The arguments between commercial and sports fishery won’t be going away anytime soon, and over the last three decades Nyce has seen the sports fishery come up from behind and gain momentum.

“There needs to be discussions to alleviate pressure and tensions between each other. From here, we’re willing to sit down and work things out,” he said, adding that sometimes that’s easier to do when you’re off the main drag like he is.

For Stevens, who is also the UFAWU Vice President, the term “sports” fishery as a misnomer.

“It’s a commercial operation in the sense that charter operators are making a living,” he said.

The statistics Stevens saw for 2009 in Barkley Sound indicated 25,000 chinook were taken out of the area by sports fishing.

“That’s almost double what was caught the year before. We went down there and never did catch our allocation. It’s not that we don’t want to share the fish, but we feel they don’t want to share with us and there should be room for everyone,” Stevens said.

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