TROUBLE ON OMOO – JUNE 23

This was our last day in Barkley Sound and WE DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE!!  We left the Port Alberni Yacht Club Outpost and headed out to Trevor Channel from Robbers Pass on our way to Bamfield, which was our last stop to fuel and provision before the Juan de Fuca Strait.  Very quickly we were surrounded by a maze of fishing vessels with nets out, OOPS!!  The purse seiners watched us closely and although we’d been around fishing boats before we always managed to find a safe way past them.  NOT SO TODAY!!

The floats on the nets were difficult to see so I had the binoculars out and was giving the skipper signals on which way to turn and avoid them.  “STOP, GO TO PORT HARD!”  We made it around a couple of nets then got a blast from one of the captains on a nearby vessel.  “STOP STOP, NETS NETS.”  It’s impossible to stop a sailboat on the water very quickly and it got confusing very fast.  SS  IS STARTING TO GET PISSED OFF THAT THE SKIPPER ISN’T LISTENING TO HER!!  The skipper is trying an old trick by trying to get around the nets by taking a route close to shore.  The nets were even closing off that route by being directly attached to the shore. The crew on the DFO Zodiac were waving wildly to us by now to follow them.   As they led Omoo through the floats and fishing vessels we discussed how we had never heard  the fishing report for the opening in Trevor Channel that day, or if we had somehow missed it.  We were used to announcements on VHF 16 to indicate areas of openings for fishing so pleasure craft could avoid fishing vessels.

Later we decided to call in to the Coast Guard to see if we had missed the report, but were given a number to call the Department of Fisheries on the phone to check on the details.  That didn’t help because we did not have cell phone service. So on our learning curve we chalked it up to lessons learned on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  Maybe they don’t announce fishing openings as often as in the Gulf Islands cause there aren’t as many pleasure boaters out and about? Well, we do know there were at least one other sailboat in the area besides us.

We pulled into Bamfield Inlet, docked and debriefed over a glass of wine.  “Well, we didn’t run into any nets, whew!  I wonder how much that would cost in fines, damages and repairs” ruminates the skipper.  SS imagined what the response on the radio would be to “PAN PAN PAN, OMOO OMOO OMOO, THE SKIPPER WON’T LISTEN TO ME!!”  “OMOO, OMOO, OMOO this is COAST GUARD, COAST GUARD, COAST GUARD… long pause…. RODGER DODGER THAT, OVER AND OUT!!”

The evening offered a lovely walk around town, a friendly chat with the locals and a restful sleep so we could hit the trail again in the morning (weather permitting).

 Wikipedia – Purse seine[edit]

Fish swimming near the surface are surrounded by a wall of netting supported by floats.
The net is drawn or “pursed” so it is closed at the bottom as well.

A common type of seine is a purse seine, named such because along the bottom are a number of rings. A line (referred to as a purse-line) passes through all the rings, and when pulled, draws the rings close to one another, preventing the fish from “sounding”, or swimming down to escape the net. This operation is similar to a traditional style purse, which has a drawstring. The purse seine is a preferred technique for capturing fish species which school, or aggregate, close to the surface: such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies,herring, certain species of tuna (schooling); and salmon soon before they swim up rivers and streams to spawn (aggregation). Boats equipped with purse seines are called purse seiners.

Purse seine fishing can be a relatively sustainable way of fishing, as it can result in smaller amounts of by-catch (unintentionally caught fish), especially when used to catch large species of fish (like herring or mackerel) that shoal tightly together.[6] When used to catch fish that shoal together with other species, or when used in parallel with Fish aggregating devices, the percentage of by-catch greatly increases.[6]

Use of Purse seines are regulated by many countries. In Sri Lanka, using this type of nets within a radius of 7 kilometers offshore is illegal.[7] However it can be used in deep sea after obtaining permission from authorities. Purse seine fishing can have negative impacts on fish stocks because it can involve the bycatch of non-target species and it can put too much pressure on fish stocks.[8]

Purse seine boat encircling a school of fish
A school of about 400 tons of jack mackerel encircled by a Chilean purse seiner

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