Troll Fishermen Left Out Of Fraser River Bonanza, Demand Answers


Troll fishermen from the West Coast of Vancouver Island are calling for an investigation after they were left out of the largest sockeye fishery in nearly 100 years.

Kathy Scarfo, president of the Area G Trollers, said Sunday none of the group’s 164 boats were allowed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to participate in the recent Fraser River run, which drew about 34 million salmon and kept seiners and gillnetters busy.

The last time so many sockeye returned to the Fraser River was 1913, when 39 million showed up.

“At this point I’d like to see an investigation onto what the hell is going on with the policies of the department,” said Scarfo.

Somebody who is not from B.C. should lead the probe, too, said Scarfo.

Unlike seiners and gillnetters, trollers use hooks and lines to land their catches.

Scarfo’s association, Area G Trollers, represents 164 boats, which fish on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, including Victoria and areas to the north, as well as the north end of Johnstone Strait.

Until about 10 years ago, Area G trollers took about 20 per cent of the Fraser River run, said Scarfo.

But in the past 10 years, members of the organization have fished Fraser River stocks only three times, and only during years when DFO identified an abundance of salmon.

Normally, commercial fishermen and the DFO discuss how they’ll divvy up the catch before the season begins and make adjustments in season, said Scarfo.

But when so many sockeye returned this year, DFO increased quotas to other groups but didn’t include the trollers.

“They just said no,” said Scarfo, of the DFO.

Scarfo said that decision cost the average troll-boat owner about $100,000, and kept money out of the hands of support businesses like ice plants and trucking companies.

The association estimates the decision cost communities about $40 to $50 million.

Scarfo said she’d also like the Cohen Commission travel to the Island’s West Coast.

The federal government called the inquiry last summer after sockeye stocks appeared so depleted. Bruce Cohen, a former B.C. Supreme Court judge, is leading the inquiry.

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