Predicting a dismal sockeye fishing season, with no openings on the Nass River and only four days on the Skeena River, a Prince Rupert City Councillor has requested City Hall write to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans asking that gillnetters and seiners be able to access their full allocation of pinks salmon in 2011.
According to Councillor Joy Thorkelson there should be a large run for pink salmon.
“In fact, it should be one of the record runs on the north coast if it comes in as expected. There should be a seven million return to the Skeena, we should be able to take three or four million of that in catch. There should be over a million and a half million catch on the Nass, and approximately seven million catch down by Hartley Bay,” Thorkelson said at Monday evening’s council meeting.
Gillnetters are allocated up to 25 percent of the pink salmon run by DFO, but haven’t been allowed to take that allocation over the last seven or eight years.
“It’s not clear if they are going to let gillnetters catch their allocation or not,” Thorkelson said, adding that both gillnetters and seiners have put together fishing plans for a controlled harvest, where they will deliver on alternate days, use different mesh sizes and observers, to get around the non-targeted bi-catch.
Thorkelson told council she wanted the City write and ask DFO to develop fish plans that allow gillnets and seines to catch their allocated amount of pink salmon this year to ensure that local canneries are working full force and fishermen are able to make some kind of a living.
She put her request in the form of a motion that received full endorsement from council.
“The department has not signalled one way or another whether they are going to allow those pink salmon to be caught,” Thorkelson added.
Area Chief Resource Manager Dale Gueret, who has been in the position since October 2010, told The Northern View he looked forward to receiving the letter from the City.
“We will do the best we can to make sure they receive their full allocation, but we have to recognize that if there are weak stock runs, we have to make sure we address all the issues,” Gueret said. “There could be restrictions.”
Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne asked Thorkelson if there was anything more that council could do in addition to writing a letter, but heard the next step would be to invite Gueret to a meeting, although Thorkelson said is hopeful it won’t have to go that far, but that DFO will allow for the full allocation.
“We will certainly recognize what they’ve said. We are doing our best,” said Gueret.