It's almost an end of summer ritual now, fisherman angry with DFO procedures and decisions prepare a late season protest.
Tuesday it was the gill net fishermen of Area four who were protesting a decision that saw them not being allowed to fish more than seven days this season.
The Daily News examined the protest plans in the Tuesday paper.
Gill-net fishermen protest lack of opening
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Some Area 4 gillnet fishermen are protesting fishery management today in response to not being allowed to fish more than seven days this season.
"The seines are going to fish tomorrow again, which seems highly unfair," Richard Omori, a commercial gillnetter in Prince Rupert said yesterday. "I'm going to go out and set my net tomorrow morning at six o'clock to make a point, and then I'm on my way south because it's highly unlikely we'll be fishing here again."
Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the reason the Area 4 gillnet fishery is closed is due to the low numbers being recorded so far this year.
"We're looking at the escapement into the Skeena, and currently we're meeting escapement goals, but we have no surplus right now," said David Einarson, North Coast area director for DFO.
"The summary is we have no surplus to conduct a gillnet fishery. Just looking at the calendar, it's getting late, so we don't expect to have anymore gillnet fishing for sockeye in Area 4. But we watch it on a day-to-day basis, so it could change, but currently it looks like the season is winding down."
So far there have been 450,000 sockeye caught by gillnetters between Areas 3 and 4 (the Nass and Skeena Rivers) according to DFO numbers. For seiners, the number caught is currently around 135,000.
"When I walked the floats on Friday, most of the people were willing to go out [in protest]," said Omori. "We have an allocation of pink salmon that we're not allowed access to. The seines have fished four days last week, they're getting two days this week, and probably two more days after it, and we haven't had any access to these pink salmon, regardless what's happened to the sockeye run."
The problem as commercial gillnetters see it is that since their allocation has been met, seine fishermen have caught some 22,000 sockeye, putting their share of the fishery at 0.7 per cent higher than their 25 per cent allocation.
"The 0.7 per cent works out to 4,150 sockeye," said Omori. "That's 4,000 sockeye that's owed to the gillnets, out of this 22,000 that the seines are being allowed to fish. There's probably less than 100 boats in town now, which is 40 sockeye per boat.
"In a normal year gillnetters can't make any money fishing straight pink, but in a year like this, when everything on the North Coast is going to be closed, the only surplus we have is this huge pink salmon run that the seines are going to keep hammering on.
"So if anybody wants to go out and slaughter 100,000 pinks, they should be allowed to do it because we're entitled to a per cent of the run. It's totally unfair," said Omori.
While gillnetters may be upset and protesting the continued closure of their fishery, DFO doesn't see any way around the poor season.
"The current exploitation rate on the Skeena right now with the run size we have is about 27 to 28 per cent, and we currently have 27.7, so we're right in there," said Einarson.
"We've had seven fishing days in Area 4 for the gillnets, which is less than normal, but our run size was less than predicted. We predicted 2.5 million return, and right now it's looking like the return is 1.7. We don't base the fishery on what we predict, we base it on what we see coming back."
Einarson was optimistic about the fact that there has been a proper amount of salmon spawning in the Skeena River this year, and that good escapement numbers generally mean a healthy future stock.
"There's no management actions that have been taken to restrict their catch, it's just that Mother Nature hasn't sent enough fish home," he said. "There's no management action to protest, but I guess they can protest no fish."