It’s a late afternoon flood tide in Legoe Bay, off the western coast of Lummi Island about 10 miles west as the crow flies from Bellingham, Washington. Nestled in the bay, Lummi Island Wild, a co-op of 4 reef net gears, operates with the mission to bring great tasting, wild salmon to market through solar powered boats, virtually zero bycatch and without disturbing the ocean with noise or air—making them one of the 10 greenest fisheries on earth.
On the horizon, through the blue bands of ocean, sky and faraway islands, the reefnet gears stoically wait. It’s a dominate run year, so the waiting is shortlived. Every four years, the Adams River run—the migration phenomenon of salmon spawning in the same place they were born—experiences a dominate run where an unusually high number of sockeye returns to this British Columbian river. Two thousand fourteen is one of those dominate run years and something, undoubtedly, for the Lummi Island reefnet fishermen to celebrate. As the salmon prepare for the 1,500 mile journey back home, they’ve stored some the highest amounts of healthy Omega-3 fats found in salmon—making for the most delicious fish in the world.
The practice of reefneting is a long held tradition to the Northwest. Native American tribes manned cedar canoes and nets to catch salmon in the very same bay where they’re caught today. With the exception of slightly larger boats, polarized glasses and the addition of solar-powered winches, this wild Pacific fishing method is essentially unchanged. A system of stationary nets mimics a natural reef which funnels a school of fish into the net. When the salmon crest the artificial reef, the fishmermen on each boat activate their winch which pulls in the net. The salmon are guided into a live well where they’re kept alive until processing—an important step in ensuring a remarkably fresh fish. Their time in the live well also allows bitter lactic acid that builds up during stress to leave their body which results in a sweet flavor and any unwanted bycatch can be safely returned to the ocean unharmed. Through this practice, the salmon and the sea are shown the respect they deserve.
See this harmonious partnership between ocean and fisherman firsthand at the Lummi Island Reefnet Festival on Saturday, August 9 11am-8:30pm at Legoe Bay on Lummi Island, Washington. For more info visit their Facebook event page. As presenting sponsor, Haggen will be on site with plenty of fun for the whole family.