Low Sockeye returns mean less money will be coming into the community this year

North Coast fishing season projected to be one of the worst yet

It might have been a first for Prince Rupert council chambers.

It might have been a first for Prince Rupert council chambers.

The 1984 comedic film ‘Ghostbusters’ was referenced by Coun. Joy Thorkelson at the last council meeting in July, but the councillor’s message was anything but funny.

“[The ocean has] had a growth of algae that’s created a slime. If anyone has seen ‘Ghostbusters’, they’ll know ectoplasm. That’s what the slime is like – ectoplasm,” said the councillor.

Area fishermen face the dire reality of a much lower-than-expected return on Skeena River sockeye salmon, a trend that is seemingly affecting all areas of B.C. due to the slime and warmer than usual temperatures on the North Coast.

“It’s too bad because this was predicted to be the best year since 2001. [The United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union (UFAW)] were predicting to have a 3.5 million [run] return on the Skeena. Right now, it looks like we’ll have less than a million,” said Thorkelson, who is also a representative of the UFAW.

Not only is the run much lower than expected, sitting at approximately 855,000, but the sockeye have been much smaller than in previous years, with the average fish weighing in at five pounds.

“Multiply that by $1.75 per pound in sockeye and that’s how much [North Coast] fishermen have made this year. It used to be $3.00 per pound … Very few people in the cannery are going to have enough hours to get unemployment insurance, which is going to create a bigger crunch on housing because people are going to have to rely on welfare and welfare will claw back all of the money they’ve earned this summer, which won’t be very much,” Thorkelson added.

Along with the low return of Skeena sockeye, the Nass was expected to produce a run of 700,000, but it’s now looking like the return will be 200,000, said Thorkelson.

The situation hasn’t been catastrophic enough to warrant the potential closure of the Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) Fishery this year, but the Skeena Fisheries Commission is informing all FSC fishermen from the Gitksan, Gitanyow, Wet’suwet’en, Lake Babine and Lax Kw’alaams Bands that if the run continues to be downgraded in-season, “it may be necessary to consider restrictions to limit Skeena sockeye catch for conservation reasons,” read a release from the commission.

“Currently there are no restrictions on First Nations FSC fishing in the Skeena River. Recreational fishers can only take one Skeena sockeye per day and no commercial fishing for Skeena sockeye is anticipated for this year, including inland fishing,” the July 23 release stated, adding no commercial fishing is allowed until the run reaches the 1.05 million threshold.

“We still have faint hope, but hope is becoming fainter. Pink salmon haven’t shown up. The first day of canning was on July 9, which is the latest canning in my whole career,” said Thorkelson.

Record ocean temperatures are a full three degrees higher than normal, scientists have said, and have caused a toxic algae bloom. A large warm blob of ocean water has moved into northwest B.C. waters, causing warm water predators to move farther north. The warm water also kills off some of the nutritious food that salmon usually eat, which explain why they may show up smaller and thinner than usual.

“Ocean conditions are changing and I guess the sooner we all realize that we have to reduce our carbon footprint, [the better],” Thorkelson said.

Just Posted

Bridgeview Marine builds fishing fleet for Queen Charlotte Lodge

Since October, the Prince Rupert-based company has been working on nine vessels for the lodge

B.C. port workers set to strike on Monday in Vancouver

A strike at two container terminals would affect Canadian trade to Asia

Service honours Marlene Swift’s life and work with North Coast Victims Services

RCMP, Prince Rupert residents attend a ceremony for Swift from inside the Salvation Army on May 23

Cruise ship 2019 season officially sails into Prince Rupert

Eleven thousand tourists expected to visit Northland Terminal this year

VIDEO: Protesters in Penticton gather to rally against sleeping-on-sidewalk bylaw

The proposed bylaw would outlaw sitting or lying on the city’s downtown sidewalks

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Scheer says it would take Conservatives five years to balance budget

Scheeraccused the Liberal government of spending $79.5 billion of previously unbudgeted funds

B.C. man, 30, arrested for driving his parents’ cars while impaired twice in one day

The Vancouver-area man was arrested after officers caught him driving impaired twice in one day

Most Read