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Sockeye season called the worst in three decades

Joy Thorkelson of the United Fishermen and Allied Worker's Union (UFAWU) is pulling no punches when it comes to discussing the 2013 commercial fishing season.

"I've never seen it this bad, and I've been here for 30 years," she said, adding she lost any sense of optimism for this year a month ago.

"The average gillnetter fishing the North Coast has caught approximately 500 fish. Just 500. That doesn't pay for the licence fee with the federal government, let alone the other fees that have been piled on this year, like the on-board monitor, and it doesn't even cover the $300 fishermen have to pay Archipelago Marine for the log book."

With only an estimated 453,000 sockeye of the necessary 1.05 million making their way back into the Skeena River, Thorkelson said the few in the fleet able to afford the fuel have made their way south to the Bella Bella area. Still others are trying their luck in the Nass River with the hope of making some money.

"They might fish the Nass next week if there are still sockeye along with the pink salmon ... but as the sockeye numbers dwindle, fewer boats are likely to go there. Right now the pink salmon catch is just covering the cost of fuel and any money being made is on the rare sockeye caught, so it doesn't make sense to fish just to cover the cost of fuel," she said.

More than being the worst year in three decades, Thorkelson said it is also frightening the fleet.

"The closure this year is the scariest yet. We have had closures before, but we have never had a closure where the returns were this low," she said.

"It's scary because what does this mean for four years from now when the salmon from this year return to the system?"

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