Worst Salmon fishing in 50 years, Advocates sound alarm on unfolding disaster in B.C.

CBC REPORTS: First Nations and union leaders say there is a desperate need for relief for commercial salmon fishermen on British Columbia’s coast.

Advocates say the federal and provincial governments need to step in to help fishermen through the worst commercial fishing season in 50 years, as runs have plummeted for all species and in all regions.

Joy Thorkelson, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union, says at least 2,500 people have been affected by the downturn.

Bob Chamberlain, a former vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says the government needs to come up with diverse solutions since global warming is an added stressor for salmon.

John Helin, former gillnetter and current mayor of Lax Kw’alaams, says the lack of salmon has put pressure on other species of fish and there’s been a decline in their numbers.

A statement from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the government understands and empathizes with the economic impacts of the declining salmon returns.

SOURCE: cbc.ca

5 Replies to “Worst Salmon fishing in 50 years, Advocates sound alarm on unfolding disaster in B.C.”

  1. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy had a most clever way of looking at life’s problems. In this case, it could rightly apply to the worst Salmon fishing in 50 years….If you see fish floating belly up on the water and whisper to your fishing buddies, “Shhhh be quite, the fish are sleeping”….well, you might be a Red Neck!

    The intent here is not to make light of a serious catastrophe, but to draw specific attention to the prestidigitation and manipulative mindset of humans to deprecate nature. Cause and effect play a prolific roll in confusing the rational behavior of many people. Every action will have consequences, either good or bad.

    Reports have shown and I quote, the pink salmon returns to the Fraser have been huge. Keep in mind that standardized test fishing is the tool managers use to determine run strength, either allowing a commercial fishery for consumer consumption, of not depending upon salmon available that are surplus to spawning requirement. The Canadian managers have pulled the test boats off the waters and then declared that the season is closed due to lack of data, because the test vessels which they control have been ordered off the water. Then the test boats in the river showed spectacular test fishing results. The managers declared the test results invalid. Then farther upstream at Mission the fish counter lit up with spectacular results. The results were unilaterally downgraded. All of these manipulations of data violate basic scientific principles.

    Now there are so many pink salmon going to spawn that they smother each other, and all the people who depend upon a commercial fishery are unemployed. The economic misery is very real at the individual level and these folks could have been working, but the Canadian managers decided for political reasons, to ignore science. The truth of the largest mismanagement of Fraser River salmon in history, will eventually unfold for all to see. It cannot be covered up forever. It is designed to magnify the lie being told by senior managers at D.F.O.

    They suspect that there are many rivers in British Columbia with large return of pink salmon and Chinook salmon. Washington State is also having large returns of Chinook. The pink salmon returns are due to ocean conditions favorable to all pink salmon. The large returns of Chinook are another story.

    Chinook returns are rebounding because there finally has been curtailing of harvests of immature salmon by both commercial and sports fleets. The perpetual chasing of salmon farther and farther from their native spawning rivers is a relatively modern phenomena. Each group killing the fish ahead of their competition farther and farther at sea. These types of fisheries are called mixed stock fisheries. Mixed stock fisheries cannot be certain of where the fish they are targeting are returning to spawn. As such these mixed stock fisheries are not only difficult to control, but virtually impossible to manage in that there is no certainty of where the fish harvested are going. Precolonial fisheries, which were extensive, harvested primarily mature salmon, close to their native spawning streams. If returning salmon were poor, then they moved to a different river, effectively managing their fisheries without large staffs of biologists. Tragically, salmon fisheries in the 1700’s were better managed than today with buildings full of “expert” managers.

    In the early 1980’s Canada and the US were locked into negotiations over salmon. The Americans had been harvesting a small percentage of Fraser salmon, while both commercial and sports fleets in Canada had historically harvested Chinook, Coho, Chum, and Pink salmon destined for US rivers. During these negotiations Canada decided to ramp up harvests on salmon destined to spawn in US rivers as a negotiating tactic, not fully comprehending that they were not only over-harvesting US salmon stocks, but detrimentally over-harvesting salmon destined to spawn in Canadian rivers also. Canadian salmon stocks have never recovered. Spawning goals for salmon have been missed in Canada and the US on Chinook and Coho for years now as fleets of salmon harvesters became accustomed to harvest levels in the 1980’s, and did not want to return to pre-1980’s levels.

    An explosion of guided salmon charter business erupted in British Columbia, targeting Chinook and Coho salmon at harvest levels unsustainable. These charter salmon fishermen marketed salmon fisheries targeting a market by touting the ability to harvests salmon ahead of everyone else, many of which are destined for US rivers. The fantasy was that these were free fish. Completely mis-understanding that as the resource goes, so does their business, regardless of where the salmon were headed to spawn.

    In Washington, and British Columbia the commercial salmon fleets have been virtually eliminated. These fleets fed the consumer. If you eat fish and do not catch the fish yourself, it came from a commercial fisherman. The consumer voice was lost.

    Since 1985, the minimum spawning escapement for Coho and Chinook salmon have not been met in either country. The commercial industry in both countries has been basically eliminated in order to sustain this billion dollar sports/charter industry. The salmon cannot sustain these harvest levels of single fishermen with hooks and poles because of the shear number of these fishermen, add up to huge numbers of fish killed.

    Today, a Chinook salmon is targeted by 500,000 fishermen, in both countries. These Chinooks are caught years before they spawn. A wall of hooks. Their political power is profound. The center of this industry is Langara on Queen Charlotte Islands. The corporate jets line its’ runway. Sport caught fish are shipped by the pallet load. All Chinooks bound for both US and Canadian rivers which universally do not meet their spawning goals and have not for decades.

    Even if you are a layperson, you understand that when you miss your spawning goals for decades, declines in salmon abundance are the result.

    With that in mind Ladies and Gentlemen, as Jeff Foxworthy would say, “If you see fish floating belly up on the water and whisper to your fishing buddies, “Shhhh be quite, the fish are sleeping”….well, you might be a Red Neck!

    The prestidigitation and manipulative mindset of humans to deprecate nature is absolutely astounding.

  2. It is time to supplement with hatcheries. Also what about the increasing numbers of parasites in wild fish. It takes a vast many sport fisherman to equal one commercial boat. Fact is you cannot support commercial fisheries on wild runs , commercial fishing is just too effective at stripping a resource. Stop blaming sport fishers , every time a stock has collapsed due to harvest it has been due to commercial fishing and sometimes uncontrolled harvest by some aboriginals who also fish for profit.

  3. Good reply Mr. Pennell. I once heard a man state that, at the time, there were too many Pinks in the river. To which I replied, “There are never too many salmon”. Imagine what it was like two hundred years ago. I wonder if the powers to be have even a view of the water from their office?
    Other than the closures of the year, tidal fishing has been very productive.

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