Shipping News

The people and events in and around the waters off Parksville Qualicum Beach

The waters off Qualicum Beach were alive with fish boats this week.

The waters off Qualicum Beach were alive with fish boats this week.

Longtime fisherman Bob Burkosky found himself on the beach, looking out as the herring fleet scooped up silvery gold off area beaches this week.

The skipper of the B.C. Maid II has spent his share of time on a herring skiff, but right now he’s waiting for the lingcod opening, slated for April 1.

He knows what’s going on off the beach though.

“We would go around and see the first traces of spawn and then we would look for where it was a little deeper, out probably 100 yards, and we would look to see if there were more fish laying out there,” he said. “If you could find a situation like that, on the next day or next tide, you would often have a really big spawn.”

However, even if the crew does everything exactly right and they pull in a netful, there can be a downside.

“If we got the net in front of a huge school that was about to spawn, there were times we sunk the skiff before we could get the net shaken out and back,” he said. “It could be dangerous, but it usually wasn’t because there were so many other fishermen buzzing around who could pick them up.”

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek is another who was forced to stay on the beach and watch the boats race to catch their quota offshore. Westbroek said he felt a pang of wistful regret.

“I saw my old crew off Judge’s Row through binoculars and I saw they weren’t pulling in many fish, so I called them and told them they should go up by the Beach Hut,” Westbroek said. “Later on I saw them up there and I saw my own old gear right there and I could see they were pulling in fish.”

While he was glad to see his fellow fishermen doing well, Westrboek admits to having mixed feelings about the sight.

“It was hard,” he said. “I thought, why am I standing on the beach? It’s a wonderful thing to see nets come up like that. It’s a wonderful way to make a living.”

• The MLA for the Alberni-Pacific Rim constituency dipped his toe into federal policy when he rose in the legislature to call on the federal government to change course in its plan to close Coast Guard stations.

“Most people have heard of the dangerous and unsupportable decision made by the federal government to close the Kitsilano Coast Guard station,” Fraser said. “British Columbians are about to face another hit to marine safety. The marine communication and traffic services strategically located in Comox and Ucluelet are slated for closure next week.”

Fraser said this is a bad idea.

“These centers monitor for distress signals from vessels, everything from pleasure craft to tour boats to fully laden tankers and freighters,” he said. “They are like a marine 911 service and air traffic control service on the water. They provide vital safety and weather information, and the operators know their regions intimately. The Coast Guard’s marine communication and traffic services are the eyes and ears