If the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations sign the fisheries sales agreements this spring it will be a first, Hupacasath Chief Councillor Steven Tatoosh said.
“If our members give us the go-ahead then I think it will be the earliest the agreements have ever been signed,” he said. “Last year we didn’t sign until July and the fish had gone by then.”
This year, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is predicting a sockeye run size of 700,000 with 80,000 pieces split between the two first nations.
The run is up from the spring 2011 forecast of 600,000 pieces, which was later upgraded to more than one million.
DFO is also forecasting a strong Chinook return with an allocation of 37,000 pieces, with a surplus of 10,000 split between aboriginal, commercial and sports, Tatoosh said.
The numbers are lower than the 47,000 and 15,000 surplus in 2011.
The Hupacasath were scheduled to review the numbers and the economic opportunity agreements at a community meeting on Wednesday night. The Tseshaht have a similar review scheduled for Thursday night, Tatoosh said.
If fisheries calculations are correct then it could be a banner year for the fishery, said Bob Cole of the Alberni Sportsfishing Advisory Committee.
“Last year they forecast 600,000 and it ended up being 1.4 million,” Cole said. “If they use the same criteria then it’s going to be a monster run.”
Local groups worked to redo the fish allocation table and guiding principles and the result was universally beneficial.
“The groups all cooperated and all compromised,” Cole said. “If this was before then we’d still be fighting at the table.”
The Chinook numbers are a little low but are workable, he said. “If we end up with 60,000 instead of 43,000 we’ll be OK. If it’s 43,000 then we still have a plan,” Cole said. “But after all that sockeye — who cares?”