Media Release: Watershed Watch calls for closure of controversial commercial pink salmon fishery in Great Bear Rainforest until independent monitoring in place
Area 6 near Hartley Bay, within the Great Bear Rainforest, has seen a strong return of pink salmon this year, with catches thus far exceeding 650,000 pink salmon. Unfortunately, chum salmon, which Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) recognizes as a stock of concern, are being caught and – by regulation – discarded in this fishery. Watershed Watch Salmon Society is urgently calling on DFO to close the area until an effective compliance monitoring program is put in place.
“Chum salmon appear to be returning at very low levels from Alaska to B.C.,” says Greg Taylor, Watershed Watch Salmon Society fisheries advisor and former fishing company executive. “Chum discards in the fishery are a fraction of the recent historical average, indicating very poor chum abundance in the area.”
This fishery earned notoriety in 2013 when video footage captured by Watershed Watch showed fishermen leaving chum salmon on deck until nearly dead before throwing them back, even though required by fishing regulations to return this species to the water “with the least possible harm.”
“In most fisheries in the developed world, independent verification of the number of chum discarded would be required, along with an independent estimate of compliance with fishery regulations. Management decisions would take this information, along with chum stock status, into consideration. However, here in B.C., none of this information is available to DFO managers or the public.”
In 2015, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, the Canadian Fishing Company and University of British Columbia, collaborated on a research project into how this fishery could be independently monitored for compliance with fishing regulations designed to minimize the mortality of discarded chum salmon. Processors chose not to invest in the necessary video monitoring and the recommendations from this research have not yet been adopted by DFO.
“That fishery does not have to remain closed for the year,” says Taylor. “They could have cameras on those boats before the next opening.”
“These types of issues are what led the Marine Stewardship Council to withdraw its certificate of sustainability from B.C. salmon in the fall of 2019.”
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