Saturday, August 10, 2013

DFO closes sockeye fishery to recreational and First Nation users

The sockeye returns of August are even worse than originally forecast, a dire situation that has resulted in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans closing the sockeye fishery on the Skeena River to not only the commercial fleet, but expanding the closure to recreational and First Nations fishers as well.

The decision to close the Skeena sockeye fishery through until August 23rd was delivered on August 4th, the latest decision on the fishery that has made the 2013 fishing season one of concern over the state of the sockeye stocks on the North Coast.

As we outlined on the blog, the first alarms bells were sounded in early July, when DFO outlined that returns of sockeye were to be estimated to be at 600 to 800 thousand, not enough to allow for a Commercial sockeye fishery for this season.

As the numbers came in over the last week, that forecast it now seems was rather optimistic.

The latest estimate for returns is that only 408,000 sockeye have returned to the Skeena, a shocking number that moved DFO to extend its closures to the recreational and First Nations fishery, the latter facing their first closure ever on the Skeena River system.

As we reviewed on the blog earlier, the prospect of the low returns has provided for a fair amount of review on what may be cause of the situation.

One theory of earlier this summer was one from conservation groups in British Columbia,  expressing concern over fishing practices above the A-B line.

Local NDP MP Nathan Cullen added his voice to those concerns in late July, urging the Federal Government and the Pacific Salmon Commission to take steps to protect Canadian fishermen and stocks.

The North coast is not the only region of the province to be facing sockeye concerns, Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail outlines how the returns of 2013 on the Fraser River are calling to mind the same concerns as that of 2009.

That year's sockeye numbers brought us the Cohen Report, a Federal Inquiry into the Salmon Fishery in British Columbia, though it for the most part only concentrated on the Fraser River system.

With both the Fraser and Skeena Rivers now facing similar troubles this year, the push for a comprehensive review of all aspects of the fishery up and down the BC coast may grow again.

Some items of note and the effects of the most recent closure can be found below.

August 12-- First-ever aboriginal fishing ban on Skeena
August 10-- Sockeye salmon shortfall drives up price
August 9-- Skeena Sockeye Fishing Ban now includes First Nations
August 9-- First Nations sockeye fisheries shut down for first time  (audio)
August 9-- First nation fishery closed on Skeena River
August 9-- Low sockeye numbers shut down First Nations food fishery, recreation fishery
August 8-- Sockeye ban on Skeena extended to First Nations
August 7-- Sockeye season called the worst in three decades
August 5-- A Salmon season of discontent  NCR
August 1-- Kitsumkalum Salmon (video)
August 1-- Low Skeena salmon rates lead to Kitsumkalum BBQ cancellation
August 1-- Low Sockeye Numbers in Skeena River a Concern for First Nations and Government

A full review of the North Coast Fishery can be found from our archive pages.

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