Fishery Closures and the Ghosts of Past Mistakes

Hakai Magazine

David Christian, a 63-year-old gill-netter, first heard about the Pacific salmon fishery closures via cellphone while he was getting his 11-meter Grizzly King gill-netter ready to fish for salmon. The news spread quickly across the calm June waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, as fishers jumped on the radio to figure out what had just happened.

The radio chatter was incessant as fishers wondered aloud where they’d be allowed to fish, if they would be out of business, and what the future would hold. “Everyone was freaking out because all of those questions were unanswered,” Christian says, adding this policy will likely end British Columbia’s commercial salmon industry.

Announced on June 29, the closures are part of the latest plan by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to overhaul the Pacific salmon commercial industry in an attempt to save crashing salmon stocks. Pacific salmon harvests are down to just eight percent of their historical averages. The fishers were reacting to the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI), a CAN $647.1-million plan covering everything from habitat restoration to financial aid for fishers. Its goal: save the salmon and shrink the size of the commercial industry built around them.

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