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UFAWU Responds To Canadian Waters Closed While Americans Fish  

Yesterday, UFAWU-Unifor learned that Canadians would bear the brunt of conservation as Canada rejected Pacific Salmon Commission (PSC) recommendations and the U.S. accepted them. 

Despite PSC recommendations that would support a fishery, the Fraser River Panel announced that “All Canadian Panel Area waters remain closed to commercial salmon fishing,” citing a precautionary approach. United States have accepted the PSC run size recommendations, meaning that Canadian harvesters are idle while Americans fish. 

“Canada is abusing the precautionary approach,” UFAWU-Unifor President James Lawson says. 

“UFAWU-Unifor supports responsible and scientific decision making but rejecting the PSC’s recommendations confirms that Canada is ignoring clear scientific data.” 

The PSC is comprised of representatives from Canada and the U.S. Its mandate is to protect salmon stocks. This commission relies on fisheries experts and has long been trusted to enforce the Pacific Salmon Treaty. 

“UFAWU-Unifor wouldn’t typically support the United States fishing while Canadians are tied up, but in this case, both countries should be fishing right now,” Lawson says. 

“Science supports a fishery, and the Pacific Salmon Commission’s recommendations confirm that.”  

The Fraser closure reflects the pattern of unreasonable earlier closures of the Skeena and Nass rivers in Northern BC.  

The sixth largest Skeena River sockeye run in 100 years was closed after only 650,000 sockeye were caught to allow an escapement of 3.4 million, which is 3.5 times the required escapement of 900,000 sockeye. The commercial fishery catch rate was 16% of the Return to Canada of 4.1 million.  

The Nass River sockeye fishery never opened to the all-citizens commercial fishery. However, the Nisga’a and Gitanyow nation commercial fisheries took place on the same stock. Nass sockeye returned in numbers exceeding most of the last 20 years and the escapement is double the 200,000 required.  

In conjunction with the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI) closures, this news will further hurt Canadian commercial fishers who are being forced out of their industry and presented with zero options or compensation. 

“We are calling for DFO to implement a small starter fishery where gillnets fish in a two-day fishery and seine and troll fish to small initial catch ceiling,” UFAWU-Unifor Organizer Dawn Webb says. 

“This fishery will have minimal impacts. If the run appears to be along the lines of the PSC predictions, then further fisheries could occur, if the run is weak, the fishery should be closed.” 

“If these precautionary concerns are related to later-timed stocks, then getting boats in the water as soon as possible is crucial,” Lawson says. 

For media inquiries, contact UFAWU-Unifor Communications Organizer Liam Hill-Allan at communications@ufawu.org. 

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