Commercial fishermen on Canada’s west coast say it’s the worst season they’ve ever experienced.
According to Joy Thorkelson, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, at least 2,500 people are affected by the record low numbers of salmon. Catches have been far below normal and some fishermen simply haven’t fished at all this season. She said many workers haven’t earned any money since last season. Others say the catches can’t even pay the fuel bills if they go fishing and at least one says he’ll have to give up his boat as he can’t make the bank payments.
“What’s happening is just a disaster for all the fisherman and shore workers, people who work in plants and who mend nets and have been waiting all summer for this season.” J Thorkelson
Reasons for the low salmon returns along the B.C. coast are being cited as climate change, habitat destruction, and overfishing.
Salmon are born in freshwater rivers then head out into the ocean for up to five years before returning to those same rivers to spawn and die.
Earlier this year DFO says it believes a huge swath of warm ocean water five years ago, called the “blob”, killed off large numbers of salmon fry when they entered the ocean.
Thorkelson says the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has never discussed a climate adaptation strategy with her or west coast fishers.
It had estimated a return of 5 million salmon, much lower than a long term average of just under 13 million.
Nevertheless, Thorkelson said fisherman geared up, but when they went out on the ocean the fish weren’t there.
Another looming issue for boat owners is finding qualified deckhands. The unpredictable nature of the fishery in recent years means more people are leaving the industry for stable work and this year’s lack of work will only add to that concern.
- Vancouver Sun: C Chan: Sep 9/19: B.C fishing disaster hits workers hard
- Globe and Mail: W Stueck: Calls for disaster relief for salmon fishery
- News 1130: Kelly/McMahon: Sep 8/19: Worst sockeye year on record
- Canadian Press (via CBC): Sep 9/19: Alarm sounded for B.C salmon fishery
- News 1130: A Kelly: Jul 11/19: low returns of “blob” babies prompts closure of sport fishery