-- From Bryan Irwin, Coastal Conservation Association
Re: CBB, July 8, 2011, “Another Tribal Fishery Aims At Summer Chinook While Allowing Sockeye Escapement” http://www.cbbulletin.com/410610.aspx
I just read your story regarding the tribes targeting summer Chinook while allowing Sockeye to escape. It includes the following quote:
"During next week’s fishery the tribes will require the use of nets with large enough mesh that the sockeye can swim through and continue their journey. The nets will ensnarl summer Chinook, which on average are much larger than the sockeye. During lower river, non-tribal commercial fisheries in June the average Chinook weight was about 17 pounds while the sockeye averaged about 4 pounds."
The problem with this quote is even large mesh gillnets ensnare small sockeye. Reviewing the harvest statistics from the lower Columbia River, where only large mesh is used, one sockeye is captured for every 10 chinook, despite an size difference of 3.6 lbs for the sockeye and about 18 lbs for the chinook.
While the size of the gillnet may reduce the encounter rate, stating the sockeye can "swim through" gives the reader a false impression of the realities of gill-net use. The fundamental problem with gill nets is that irrespective of mesh size they capture all sizes and species of fish. Once captured, usually these fish are in too poor of condition to survive or reproduce. Gill nets have no place in a river with 13 ESA listed species of salmon and steelhead.
Regional Executive Director
Pacific Northwest Region
Coastal Conservation Association
1006 West 11th Street
Vancouver, WA 98660