The Case for Making Reefnet Fishing the Primary Method for Harvesting Salmon in the Salish Sea

Reefnet fishing for salmon is the oldest salmon net fishery in the world, and the most sustainable. It was once practiced throughout much of the Salish Sea, for thousands of years. Modern day reefnets are solar powered, and selective to the point where zero unwanted bycatch mortality is routine when harvesting salmon.

In our video we will show how reefnet fishing works, where it was historically deployed, and why it is necessary in today’s world to replace non-selective gear types wherever possible. We will also show how reefnet fishing for harvesting salmon can be used by the Pacific Salmon Commission to regulate the Fraser River harvest by giving real time data from varied locations.

We will show how much unwanted salmon bycatch mortality is allowed each time gillnets and purse seines are allowed to harvest the US quota, all of which would be still alive if harvested by reefnets. During the pink fishery, sockeye and chinook must be released. During a sockeye fishery, chinook must be released. But though they are released, 25-50% of the bycatch won’t survive to reach the spawning grounds.

One of the goals of the Salish Center for Sustainable Fishing Methods is to encourage the growth of this once prolific fishery, which at this time numbers only 12 gears in the world. Only one is tribal owned and operated.

We would like to see more tribal gears deployed in historical areas, and the allowance of more fishing time for reefnets regardless of historical allocations between gear types within non-treaty quotas. As reefnet fishing becomes more profitable, through more fishing time, other fishers will be encouraged to push the WDFW into a policy of trading gillnet and purse seine permits for reefnet permits.