Vancouver Island fishermen upset after sudden salmon fishing closures

Vancouver Island fishermen upset after sudden salmon fishing closures
WatchIsland fishermen are worried about their livelihoods after the federal government pulled an emergency brake on many commercial fisheries this summer. Skye Ryan has more.

On a sunny summer day, Bill Forbes and his crew geared up in French Creek to go salmon fishing.

Forbes and his crew, who are heading to a spot near Prince Rupert, are one of the few commercial fisheries still open following a sudden and massive closure by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on June 29.

“They can’t keep blaming the commercial fishermen, we may be part of the problem but kicking us out is not the solution,” said fisherman Bill Forbes.

The sudden closure has shaken up the industry in the name of protecting fast depleting wild stocks.

But now after 51 years of fishing, Forbes is worried that the Pacific salmon fishery could be lost for good.

“It throws this boat and all my crew, I’ve got three generations of Forbes’ on this boat and it just puts us out of work. I’m old but you know my grandson and my nephew are not. So they have to go someplace else and I don’t know where that someplace else is,” said Forbes.

Alberni-Courtenay MP Gord Johns said the lack of any warning before the fishery closures, caught many off guard without any chance of making their money back.

“Many of these fishers were geared up, they were on their way to the fishing grounds with crew, new nets many of them getting ready for a fishing season after a terrible year last year,” said MP Gord Johns.

The closures impact nearly 60% of Pacific Salmon fisheries and according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, they are expected to be long term closures.

“No emergency relief, they don’t know how they’re going to qualify for E.I. were they fired, were they laid off, what supports are they getting?” said Johns.

Brad Hay, a fisherman from Deep Bay, said the closures have left many extremely worried about the future.

“People if you notice are selling their boats guides are losing their businesses, their homes,” said Hay.

The federal government is offering to buy back licenses but not until 2022, leaving fishermen, including Forbes, to try to cover costs they’ve already committed to.

So Forbes is headed out to fish, with the hopes that the salmon he can catch will be enough to get him through the season.

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Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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