Tseshaht members and other participants from the Area 23 roundtable harvest Somass sockeye for the special use fishery. (photo courtesy of Tseshaht Fisheries)
The latest run re-forecast for the Somass River is 350,000 sockeye salmon, according to an update from Fisheries and Oceans Canada this week.
The pre-season forecast was a meagre 170,000 sockeye, causing a closure to the fishery this spring, but numbers have since been upgraded this summer to allow fishing from First Nations, commercial and recreational boats.
The pre-season forecast is based on models Fisheries and Oceans Canada uses to determine run sizes, said Jim Lane, Southern Region Biologist with Uu-a-thluk, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s fisheries department
“DFO uses four separate models to give them what prediction the run is going to be,” he said. “The most optimistic model was over 500,000 and the most pessimistic one was 130,000.”
Now hook and line fishing is permitted from First Nations seven days a week. The Nita Maria, a seine vessel contracted by the Hupacasath, can fish in Barkley Sound and the Alberni Inlet from Friday, July 14 to Sunday, July 16. The Tseshaht can operate drag seine nets from Friday to Sunday, 5 a.m. to 12 noon at the Paper Mill Dam pool.
Maa-nulth Nations are permitted hook and line as well as gillnet boats, according to the July 13 bulletin.
“The harvest plan includes designating Area D vessels to harvest sockeye for the Maa-nulth Nations,” stated the DFO update. “These vessels will be displaying Maa-nulth identification flags.”
For commercial boats, the fishery remains closed for gillnets, but seine harvesting is open from 10 a.m. Sunday to 6 p.m. Wednesday. A seine-free zone is designated from Hocking Point to Dunsmuir Point until 2 p.m. Sunday, then will be reduced to an area between Hocking Point and Underwood Cove until the Wednesday closure. A possible extension could be issued after a Tuesday afternoon roundtable meeting for Area 23.
Recreational boats are allotted to catch four sockeye a day in Area 23, which covers the Somass River and Alberni Inlet to Barkley Sound. The Paper Mill Dam pool remains closed to all angling, while catches of two sockeye a day are permitted to recreational fishers on the Somass north of Hoik Island.
Recreational anglers can catch one sockeye a day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the non-tidal portion of the Somass that is situated 200 metres above and 150 metres below the island near the boat launch at Somass Park.
The most recent total catch estimate is 52,443 sockeye, with Somass First Nations catching 20,650 and Maa-nulth Nations harvesting 10,169 of the fish. Area D gillnet boats have caught 7,939, while recreational anglers have an estimated 10,300. The test fishery has caught 3,385, according to the DFO bulletin.
The next weekly fishing plan is expected after the Area 23 roundtable meeting Tuesday afternoon.