Commercial salmon harvesters have been left devastated as the future of B.C.’s salmon and the province’s coastal communities became uncertain after a June 29 announcement closing 79 salmon fisheries, the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU-Unifor) stated, on July 8.
A coalition of 13 members partnered in the media statement issued by UFAWU, decried the Department of Oceans and Fisheries (DFO) announcement of closures as “a radical course of action to combat the salmon crisis,”.
As part of a $647 million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI), the closures lack grounding in science and blatantly disregard the true cause of the crisis, the coalition stated.
The statement said DFO’s own biologists and managers were not consulted or notified in these decisions, nor were harvesters made aware that any such closures were imminent.
“Many harvesters were freshly geared up, fees paid and deckhands aboard, heading their vessels to the salmon openings they were told to expect — expectations built on the previous six months of Integrated Harvest Planning Committee meetings with DFO’s salmon managers and science branch.”
“These closures will devastate salmon, harvesters, and coastal communities alike. The only gain will be the political favour of those who’ve been fooled into thinking this is the answer to the salmon crisis,” UFAWU stated
The abruptness of these closures further exemplifies the lack of due diligence on the Minister’s part, the union said.
In January, harvesters and more than 10 salmon organizations amalgamated to create the Future of B.C. Commercial Salmon Fishing Report. In the report, they identified recommendations they said are critical for the future of B.C. salmon. The recommendations included tackling habitat degradation, enhancement, predation, and climate change, which have taken a severe toll on BC Salmon and are yet to be addressed by the DFO, UFAWU stated.
“As we face these closures, a historic heatwave, spurred on by the effects of climate change, further degrades salmon habitat through both wildfires and flooding,”.
The health of salmon stocks is a deeply cared about issue the coalition said, with harvesters relying on the fish to sustain their way of life providing wild salmon to the people of B.C.
“Salmon fisheries are managed on abundance, meaning that when salmon runs are low, fisheries wait for abundance,” the group stated.
“This new “plan” has no mechanism to re-open the fisheries when stocks are in abundance — and unfished runs that are overabundant create problems such as predator dependency and over-spawning.”
After 20-years of drastically reducing commercial fishing capacity and access among still declining salmon stocks, it’s time for the government to address the real issues, UFAWU stated.
“If ending the salmon crisis was as simple as reducing fisheries, the crisis we see today wouldn’t exist,”.
“Those affected by these closures have no safety net, nor were they offered one,” the coalition said.
The 13 member coalition of fish harvester organizations who issued the statement through UFAWU is made up of B.C. Northern Trollers Association, Area C Harvest Committee, Area D Gillnet Association, Area D Harvest Committee, Area E Gillnet Association, Area E Harvest Committee, Area F Harvest Committee, Area G Harvest Committee, Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation, Canadian Sablefish Association, Northern Native Fishing Corporation, Skipper Otto Community Supported Fishery, and UFAWU-Unifor.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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