DFO says commercial sockeye fishery on the Skeena River unlikely in 2013

Commercial fishermen on the North Coast were dealt another blow this week with word that the 2013 Skeena River sockeye season is anything but a certainty.

"Right now all indications are there is unlikely to be a commercial fishery this year ... our preliminary forecast is the return is between 600,000 and 800,000 and we do not open the commercial fishery until there are at lease 1,050,000 sockeye so our thought is that there will not be a commercial fishery this year," said Mel Kotyk, North Coast area director with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who noted the situation could change.

"We monitor the returns on a daily basis, and if that number does bump up the fishery would open ... it will probably be another week or two until the majority of the fish return."

If the return was strong enough, the Skeena River sockeye fishery would open on July 12. Although that deadline may not be met, Joy Thorkelson of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union said there is still an opportunity fishermen can benefit from the run.

"Hope is not lost. It is not too late for the Skeena ... last year the fish arrived 10 days early. If the sockeye were 10 days late this year we could still have a good fishery," she said.

"The DFO predicted it would be a bad year and, unfortunately, that seems to be accurate."

Returns on the Nass River, meanwhile, is more than double the expected return. However, the fishery will be closing for two weeks on July 12 to allow a weak stock to pass through the system.

"The hope was that the Nass would close on July 12 and the Skeena would open on July 12 ... but my guess is the Skeena won't open on July 12," said Thorkelson.

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