The Salmon Purse Seine

Max Ledbetter


Public Discussion


References To My Work

Bycatch and Wastage

Here are a few e-mail responses (to this Web site and to my message-board postings) and my replies:

Hi Max!
I'm surfing around tonight and I've seen your posts in a few forums. In short your info re: BC Commercial Salmon Fishing is old news and posted in the wrong forums-those FF Guys don't give a s*** either way. Also the info you present is old.
The situation here in BC is that David Anderson-when he was Federal Fisheries Minister- got Sportfishermen priority on the Chinook and Coho stocks with Commercials receiving the majority of Pink, Chum and Sockeye-all of us after Conservation & native AFS Fisheries of course. The seine fishery in Johnstone Straight may look ugly-Hell it is ugly-but it's supported by the best scientific advice-tempered of course by political considerations-that the FOC can find.
Your feeble attempt to tie Pacific and Atlantic Salmon Fisheries together somehow-and after reading your site I'm still not sure how- shows how little you know about the Pacific Salmon situation.
One day you may indeed be "doctor of philosophy of something" but for the moment you need to inform yourself better/present your findings in the proper forum.
Start here if you want some action

(17 Nov. 2001)

My reply follows:

I'm retired from fisheries (thank God) and living in Ontario--last time I was in B.C. was 1987. Furthermore, yours is just one opinion regarding old but, it seems to me, still relevant research: fishing power. In fact, the resource management papers published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences have not progressed much since 1986. Same old stuff. I guess some of the jargon is new. . . .

And how does a seine separate the coho from the pinks in Johnstone Strait (etc.)?

Thanks for insulting my Ph.D. status before reading the dissertation: It's in the UBC library. . . . If you have been surfing, you must know that numerous small-boat owners worldwide are virtually up in arms at large fishing boats (i.e., quite concerned about fishing power) and have called for a global strike on World Fisheries Day, 21 Nov. (see the WORLD FORUM OF FISHER PEOPLES:

Max Ledbetter (18 Nov. 2001)

[You, the readers of this Web page, might note that back during 1980-1981, Redden Net Company (Vancouver) and I put together an unsolicited proposal to find the best seine-net design and mesh-size/style combination for reducing the juvenile chinook salmon bycatch. "Although individuals within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans [DFO] encouraged this attempt to obtain funds from the Department of Supply and Services, the DFO opted for an in-house, small-scale survey" (Ledbetter, M. 1981. Guest editorial. Western Fisheries 103 (October 1981): 17).]


Re:-"last time I was in B.C. was 1987"
My point exactly-you are completely out of touch.
"And how does a seine separate the coho from the pinks in Johnstone Strait" Seiners are now are (sic) all required to carry tanks which are used to revive any Coho taken. Coho are brailed-do you know what that means?-out of the seine and placed in the revival tanks-with excellent results. If your info were in any way current you'd know this.
As to "me/mine" I'm a Sportfisherman of 40+ years experience here in BC, Ontario, coastal Oregon, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Fiji-I've spent more time in a small boat fishing than many people have at work. Because of my extensive first-hand experience I've seen the battles artesenal fisherman fight against factory-fishing operations. The situation here in Canada is in no way analogous to that in other climes-not even close.
Good Luck with your studies-I can only hope that upon your graduation that you don't end up in the employ of FOC-they have enough bumblers advising them as it is.

(18 Nov. 2001)

My reply follows:

I obtained my Ph.D. in 1986 (I'm 47), and I was both on the boats and in the air. Thirty-five seine skippers provided logbooks. So of course I know what brail means. If the B.C. industry wasn't so overcapitalized, it might not have to waste time brailing injured salmon, if indeed it does on a consistent basis. [The point here is that in response to my rhetorical question, the author of the preceding e-mail admitted that the seine itself (the net) does not separate coho from pinks and sockeye. A brail is a dip net and is sometimes used to haul fish aboard from the seine.]

My research on purse seines is still relevant: fishing power is still fishing power. Like they said on P.E.I., a fleet of purse seiners can wipe out a stock (anywhere in the world).

I doubt that you could understand my dissertation, and I have no intention of re-entering the realms of B.C. fisheries. Mine is simply an attempt to promote my past research.

Time will tell. . . .

Here is response from another reader:

Looks like a serious wrap, not too many places for a fish to high tail it to for survival. That's about as tight a wrap as I've ever seen. There's got to be some limits, has to be . . . Thanks for sharing. The dissertation must have been interesting, heck of a lot more interesting than what I did in school, finance . . .

Great Stuff,

Max Ledbetter (18 Nov. 2001)


Mr. Ledbetter,
I think I see the connection you are making of the two cases [salmon seiners in B.C. and herring seiners in the Gulf of St. Lawrence]. However, are you aware that the Gulf [herring seiners] have access to 23% of the overall quota, they can't fish for roe (no access to spawning grounds), they don't catch immature fish, they have dockside monitoring and at sea observers, etc. . .

On the other hand, the inshore fishermen use gillnets on spawning grounds and have access to 77% of the quota. Knowing the limitation imposed to the seiners, is the fishing power of the seiners still a threat to stock conservation in your view? Thanks for your input.

(19 Nov. 2001)

My reply follows:

I am not, of course, an Atlantic expert. However, I often fail to see how general quotas protect individual stocks. I have seen seiners TARGET river mouths, inlets, rip tides, individual salmon stocks, ocean perch, chinook, squid, etc., and I have observed firsthand the damage the nets inflict on both mature and juvenile fish. From my field experience, which I doubt is now completely "old hat" (given what I read in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences), I know the general capabilities of the "pirates" within the fishing fleets.


Max Ledbetter, Ph.D. (19 Nov. 2001)


Thanks for your email and site. . . . I work with salmon and bears, especially the significant processes of nutrient transfer to forests which may account for their productivity. I am concerned about the over-mechanization of ocean harvest. What if we harvested mushrooms with bulldozers? I'm for terminal fisheries of salmon using sailboats.

I have flown over Port Hardy [during a commercial fishing opening]. Looks like a Marines invasion.


(5 Dec. 2001)


Dear Dr. Ledbetter,

Many thanks for providing us with the address of your website. We have read the information presented on the site and found it most useful.

The problem with European fleets is also one of over capacity. Many of our fish stocks are below biologically safe limits. The problem of bycatch is a severe one - non target fish species, cetaceans, turtles, seals and sea birds. Decommissioning of vessels does not reduce capacity, as the fishing quotas are sold to other fishermen who own more powerful vessels. At this time of year there are many purse seiners fishing for mackerel, pilchards etc. in the Western Approaches. In the same area are large pair trawlers, other pelagic trawlers, beam trawlers and driftnetters. It is a nightmare.

European politicians seem incapable of taking steps to deal with the fishing industry, effectively. The subsidies provided to the industry encourage over capacity.

We are involved in a campaign which is lobbying to have cetacean bycatch mitigation measures incorporated into the European Common Fisheries Policy. We are lobbying politicians and fishermen's organisations, and are asking our supporters to do likewise; lobbying supermarkets to provide consumers with information regarding the method of capture of their fish products, and to purchase fish caught using handlines and pole and lines; contacting as many artisanal fishermen as possible (those using handlines, and pole and line only), and asking them to provide as much sustainably caught fish as possible, therefore providing the consumer with the ability to buy fish which has been caught in a sustainable way; we then promote the fish caught using the methods mentioned.

Next year, we are planning a "Fish Free Week" throughout Europe, to demonstrate to politicians, the fishermen's organisations, and supermarkets that the public is not prepared to see the fishing industry destroy our seas, and the creatures living in, and dependent on, them.

I hope to contact the World Forum of Fisher People, as perhaps we might be able to help each other.

Thank you again.

I hope we can keep in contact.

Kind regards,


(9 Dec. 2001)


Hi Dr. Ledbetter:

The only substantive comment that I'd make is that while the use of purse seiners may present management challenges in certain fisheries they are generally one of the most energy efficient vessel-based fish catching technologies around. Peter

(10 Dec. 2001)


Max, a few questions come to mind not the least of which are: given the major changes in the dynamics of the fishery caused by BC deforestation, the SEP, the "New" U.S./Canada salmon treaty, and the collapse of BC and Puget Sound salmon stocks (a) are these fisheries still viable; (b) are they still located in these areas; (c) where to from here? I complement you on this innovative measurement technique and wish you the best in future. p

(10 Dec. 2001)


Thanks for this, I will have a look.

Any further info will always be appreciated.


(10 Dec. 2001)


The following was posted on - 01/12/2001 : 10:35:25.

Thanks for the data. As a saltwater guide in 1957/58, it was common knowledge that sportfishing [in British Columbia] was finished for the week after a commercial opening. Things haven't changed. With the private boat licence buy backs it put the Fisheries into the hands of a few owners who will instruct the fleet to fish in the most efficient manner. Only the stragglers in a school of salmon manage to escape the nets. The big schools all get scooped up.


I feel like I am somewhere in between El Nino, Parvicapsula minibicornis, a farm fish and a purse seiner.

Vancouver Island

(13 Jan. 2002)


The following was posted on - 22/03/2002.

Max, I can feel only a tiny bit better about what's happening in Washington (state) and Oregon. Our fish agencies keep very close tabs on the commercial fishery in, say, the Columbia River and Puget Sound, but for obvious reasons, usually don't have a real clue about what's happening before they get here. There are two conditions that have improved: 1) we are making good progress in hatching habitat, but, of course, much more needs to be done; 2) the "war" that goes on between Canadian and US fishers seems to be abating. On a very positive note, we're experiencing for the 2nd consecutive year a large spring and fall run in the Columbia. We trust El Nino will stay away.