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Commercial fishermen support cuts in Chinook catches

Last Updated May 25, 2018 at 9:53 pm PDT

iStock file photo

Fishing restrictions are being put in place in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Gulf Islands

Chinook is a primary food source for the endangered southern resident killer whales

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The commercial fishing industry in BC is supporting a move to shut down the Chinook salmon fishery in parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Gulf Islands as well as partial closures in the mouth of the Fraser River.

The federal government is hoping the measures will increase the amount of salmon for the endangered southern resident killer whale population.

“Chinook are one of the primary food sources for the southern resident killer whales, and wild populations of Chinook salmon have declined dramatically in recent years. Achieving these conservation reductions will help restore Chinook populations and enhance the availability of Chinook for southern resident killer whales to eat,” reads a statement issued by Fisheries and Oceans.

Dane Chauvel is a commercial fisherman who co-founded the sustainable seafood supply company Organic Ocean and sits on the Commercial Salmon Advisory Board.

He says his industry recognizes that the viability of the whales is a significant concern. Only 76 southern resident whales remain.

He points out there are plenty of other species of salmon to satsify restaurant menus and supermarkets.

“Species that we target, particularly this year, will be sockeye salmon and to a lesser extent chum salmon. They are not the salmon of choice for southern resident killer whales,” he notes.

“We really deal with five species of wild salmon. They are all different, like the varietals of wine. If you don’t have Chinook, then coho, chum, sockeye, pink are good alternatives.”

Pink salmon is the most abundant of all Pacific salmon species.

He says the type of gear they use allows them to harvest specific species of salmon.

“If we’re targetting sockeye salmon, we use a type of gear that attracts sockeye salmon,” he explains.

And if Chinook are accidentally taken in, they are easily returned to the water.

“All three commercial salmon-harvest methods – hook and line, gillnet, and seine – have methods for releasing non-targetted by-catch.”

He knows not all fishermen will agree with the shut down, given studies like one published in Scientific Reports shows seals and sea lions provide just as much competition for Chinook as fishermen.

“That is a controversial subject, because the sea lion and the seal populations are growing unbounded and affecting the viability of the salmon runs.”