Less than a week after the commercial fishery for sockeye opened on the Skeena River, the gillnetters have had another two days of fishing — and the previous salmon forecast is flipping on its head.
In March, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) considered a total shutdown of all chinook and sockeye fishing on the North Coast due to poor estimates for the salmon run. But since July 25, the sockeye escapement estimate has risen from 1.34 million to 1.37 million.
“We are still planning to open the recreational fishery in the Skeena. The current plan being discussed is to open it on the seventh of August. That would open it for coho, pink and sockeye,” said Colin Masson, North Coast area director for DFO.
On July 29 and 30, the 2018 season continued with approximately 85 gillnetters on the water.
“The reason why we were delaying until then [early August] is there have been lots of concerns for the chinook in the river and the places where the chinook are holding are often the same places where the recreational sockeye fishing would take place. This gives a little more time for the chinook to move through into the sporting areas and enables a coordinated opening for recreational harvesting.”
Masson said DFO is also anticipating a small seine fishing opportunity in the first week of August. It would be on an individual vessel quota, unlike the gillnet fishery, which has access opportunities.
Last Thursday, July 26, seiners from as far as Vancouver travelled to Prince Rupert in hopes of an opening.
“In order to manage the seine fishery to meet a specific sharing arrangement, the plan has been to identify quotas for the eligible vessels. That way each vessel will fish to a specific target number and you can ensure that you manage the fishery to a specific target,” Masson said.