Last week the environmental group Watershed Watch Salmon Society posted a video of seiner fishermen mistreating salmon bycatch in the pink fishery off British Columbia's north coast. The video appears to show the fishermen leaving bycatch, including endangered chums and sockeyes, on deck, unsorted for as long as six minutes. As the narrator explains, they're most likely already dead by the time they're flung or kicked back into the water.
"DFO [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] is claiming that 100 percent of these discarded fish are being returned to the ocean in good condition but this video provides clear evidence that those discarded fish are being thrown back dead or nearly dead."
The video got a reaction from DFO, but not the one Watershed wanted. The Canadian government is now investigating the fishermen caught on tape, and the environmentalists say that effort misses the point: They claim the video depicts an industrywide problem.
"Having a few fishermen charged, and their lives disrupted because they happened to be the first ones in line when we showed up with our camera is not going to fix the broken management system that let this fishery get so far out of control,” said Aaron Hill, an ecologist with Watershed Watch in a press release. “All three of the boats we filmed mishandled fish, and now DFO and the Jim Pattison Group are trying to paint them as ‘just a few bad actors’? It’s outrageous."
Are these fishermen scapegoats or a couple of bad apples? Here's my reaction. How do you prove it's an industrywide problem if you're only showing three boats? For all we know, the group could have taken hundreds of hours of video and ONLY found a couple examples. It's unfortunate if those fishermen in the video are unfairly punished as scapegoats for a larger problem, but the group should have done a more thorough investigation if it wanted its viewers to make that conclusion.
Watch the video to see for yourself, but be careful about jumping to conclusions. A more thorough investigation with more information — including interviews with fishermen — is needed before we can do that.