Commercial fishermen’s union ‘deeply troubled’ with DFO’s decision to close Prince Rupert sockeye fishery

·2 min read

Unnecessary and irresponsible is how the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union (UFAWU-Unifor) described Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) decision to close some salmon harvesting around Prince Rupert on August 7.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced their decision to close the commercial marine sockeye fisheries around the Northcoast city, in a media release on Aug. 5,

As of Aug. 1, the Skeena run size was at 4.1 million fish, which UFAWU-Unifor calls one of the largest in decades. Yet economic fisheries will have caught fewer than 900,000 sockeye by the time of the closure, the union stated.

Commercial marine fishermen have a total allowable catch of 40 per cent. To date, they have only caught 20 per cent, Mitch Dudoward, member of UFAWU-Unifor said on Aug. 8.

The decision is not based on science, and it follows a trend of “irresponsible decision-making” by Joyce Murray, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, which is “deeply troubling”, the release stated.

“It’s not just a closure, they got us started a month late, so now there’s over three million fish going to go to waste in Babine Lake because we don’t have the catching capacity to slow them down,” Calvin Siider, UFAWU-Unifor member said.

Regulations put in place by DFO also restricted commercial fishermen to a half a net and a maximum of 20-minute sets, the latter referring to the amount of time they are allowed to have their nets in the water from the time it is completely set to the time it begins to be retrieved.

“That reduces our efficiency by half,” Siider said.

The numbers of fishing boats dropped by half, with only 150 boats showing up this year when there would usually be closer to 300, he estimated, blaming the low attendance on the Minister’s “wishy-washy” decisions.

“There are concerns for late-run Skeena stocks, which we understand, and we can take a closure for reasons like that,” he said. “But when it doesn’t open because of ministerial interference, I mean, somebody should pay.”

The union stated in its press release the closure is unnecessary and will result in lost economic opportunities for fishers.

A side effect of the stricter regulations and closures is that Prince Rupert no longer has the capacity to process the fish.

“Now that we have a whole bunch of fish, we have no processing capacity. Just about all of the fish that’s been caught and passed through Canadian fishers hands in Prince Rupert here goes to Alaska to be processed,” Siider said.

He added that labour costs have also contributed to the change in the processing location.

“We used to be able to process every fish we caught.”

Kaitlyn Bailey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Rupert Northern View