Last week, we began working with some new fishing families from the Tseshaht First Nation in Port Alberni. These families participate in a very unique fishery: a communal, commercial hand fishery for chinook and coho salmon right near the mouth of the Somass river. They use shallow gill nets which they hand throw off the back of very small boats — sometimes just 12 foot long aluminum boats. They are not permitted to use hydraulics and must pull their nets in by hand, picking the fish from the net as they go. In the McCarthy’s case, Calvin and his family fish alongside one another in one boat.
Over the past few months, as we’ve gotten to know a few of these fishing families, we’ve learned a lot about their fishery and how they were being paid. We were disappointed to learn that they were being paid quite poorly and, although the fish were returning in good numbers, and the fish were handled well, the families were struggling to make a living. Since our commercial fishing openings were timed quite poorly to target this strong run of chinooks, we decided to support these new families in their unique commercial fishery!
We bought our new friends’ catch one night in Port Alberni last week for what we agreed was a fair trade price. There were other buyers in town and, as word spread, all the buyers were forced to match our price which was 27% higher than what they had first been offering! Although we didn’t buy very many fish that night, we were delighted to hear that everyone who fished not only that week, but for subsequent openings, continued to receive that 27% higher price. Now that’s the power of our Community Supported Fishery!
Watch for the McCarthy’s salmon in your orders this winter! And we’re pleased to be building a strong relationship with these new families for the 2017 fishing season.