The 2009 Gillnet season has been a bust for the skippers and crews of the vessels that once dominated the Prince Rupert harbour sightlines, part of a continuing trend for a fishery that seems to have had its better days far in the past.
With the majority of the fleet having come to the realization that their fishing options are not to be this season, a good portion of it has left Prince Rupert for their southern home ports.
The Daily News outlined some of the impact that this season has brought to the fleet and reviewed many of the incidents of a season that wasn’t.
GILLNETTERS LOOK TO BETTER TIMES NEXT YEAR
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, August 7, 2009
The gillnet sockeye fishing fleet has mostly gone home.
Low numbers, poor communications with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and a season that never happened will be how the 2009 Sockeye Season will likely be remembered for most gillnetters on the North Coast.
Out of town fishermen left Prince Rupert's shores this week as it became evident that there would be no sockeye season this year, or if there is one, it will be small. .
"It looks like there was nothing, the backend of the sockeye run never managed to show up," said Thorkelsen.
With numbers in the low teens (of thousands), the DFO has stuck by its word that gillnetters would not be out on the water unless there was at least a solid run of 50,000.
Over the weekend and early part of this week that never happened. Faced with that stark reality, most fishermen felt there was no other option but to turn their backs on 2009 and await word on what is next.
"I imagine I will come back," said an optimistic Bob Burkosky, who owns the gillnet ship BC Maid II. "One year doesn't have a great effect on the next."
Burkosky said that the last month has been a trying time for fishermen, but he said it wasn't his opinion that local DFO staffers were to blame. In fact he applauded two senior staffers, Dave Einerson and Dave Peacock, for meeting face-to-face with fishermen in Prince Rupert.
"When Dave [Einerson] came out to meet with us on Friday he was faced with people that were desperate and mad. But I don't think anyone can do more than them and I wouldn't want to see these two men moved out," said Burkosky.
"It's the policy makers in Ottawa.
They aren't here and they don't have to face the music. I think they are trying to manage this coast with minimum resources."
Aboriginal fishermen have had a difficult season as well, said Canyon City-based fisherman, Jacob Nyce. The 80-year old Nisga'a said that he does blame DFO for mismanaging the fishery.
"This government doesn't give a damn about the west coast," said Nyce. Whether that's accurate or not is hard to decipher - mainly because no message has been sent to the fishermen from Gail Shea, the DFO minister.
Over on Haida Gwaii there has been some good news and some bad.
Council of Haida Nation vice president, Arnie Bellis, said that a couple of rivers, including Copper River on Moresby, have had solid returns on the Sockeye stock.
"It's not been the best, but that has definitely been-a bit of a surprise. As far as I understand the (ocean] food fisheries vessels did not haye much success," said Bellis.