City businesses are taking a financial hit because sockeye are hitting commercial nets, Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director Mike Carter said.
The town just earned the moniker Ultimate Fishing Town, sports fishers are flocking to the Valley in prime season, and a sales agreement has just been signed with local First Nations.
But a recent commercial fishery put a wrinkle in all of that.
“The Vancouver base seine fleet is allowed to come in and vacuum up all of the fish — at absolutely no benefit to the Valley,” Carter said.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans permitted a commercial opening in Barkley Sound last week.
As of July 14 commercial fishers had caught an estimated 189,000 sockeye out of their 515,000 allocation.
Carter takes issue with the hit–and-run approach commercial fishers apply to an opening.
“Seiners arrive, fish where they want and then turn around and take all the fish to the mainland for sales and processing,” Carter said.
With fish scooped up, Valley businesses such as hotels, campgrounds and fishing guides have been dealing with the fallout from cancellations.
Local economies need to be factored in by Fisheries and Oceans Canada when they make fisheries management decisions, Carter said.
Local interests aren’t left completely out of the loop with respect to fisheries openings, a DFO communications official said.
The seine fishing boundary was adjusted and a special sport-fishery specific area designated after concerns were recently raised at the local multi-sectoral harvest round table, the spokesperson said.
As of July 14, a total of 695,000 fish have escaped into the Sproat and Great Central Lakes, a DFO catch bulletin noted.
The Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations fishers have caught 64,000 out of an allocation of 257,000 fish.
Fishing for them has tapered off though since the commercial opening.
“The fish were like heroin in the river a couple of weeks ago — they were just shooting up,” Tseshaht fisherman Bobby Rupert said. “Now it’s really tailed off.”
The recreational fishery has taken 41,000 out of an allocation of 90,000 fish.
And the commercial sector has scooped up almost 340,000 out of an allocation of 515,000 fish.