Reef netting is a century old Native American way of harvesting salmon that has developed into the most unique and ecological method of harvesting wild salmon. Currently there are 11 license holders in the world, all operating in the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest. This fishery utilizes scoop nets and live tanks for harvesting wild salmon. These live tanks enable targeted salmon species to relax and metabolize any lactic acid built up during the brief encounter with the net. The fish then remain alive until moments before processing, ensuring the highest quality available. In addition, the fishermen are able to grade out and release untargeted species and other marine life without harm.
Reef nets are designed to simulate a natural reef or an obstacle that the salmon must swim across. This reef is created by weaving plastic streamers into rope and creating what is essentially a very large three sided funnel. While swimming across the reef, the salmon are brought close to the surface and between the two working platforms and into a scoop net. Fishermen standing in towers are able to observe the salmon swimming into the net. The net is quickly pulled to the surface with high speed electric winches and the salmon are worked into a small pocket where they are slid across a notch in one of the working platforms pontoons and into the live tank. This process called a "haul" usually takes less than one minute. Once in the live tank, untargeted species can be released unharmed while the desired ones swim freely. All salmon are hand handled and since there is no machinery used, there is no bruising to the flesh. Fishermen can actually distinguish between salmon species and won’t haul if they know it is a non targeted species. In addition, if the salmon are not observed swimming into the net, they simple circle in the net and leave with no harm or injury.
Dave Barlean revolutionized reef netting in 1972 by converting the traditional canoe style boats to a catamaran style and placed a live tank between the pontoons where the captured salmon could swim freely until just moments before processing. Besides the live tanks, other benifits were quickly realized with the new style boat. The catamaran are very stable in rough weather and wouldn’t swamp, they are wider giving the fishermen more working area, and are have a lower profile. This lower profile reduced the height that the fish had to be lifted during a "haul", making it quicker and easier for the fishermen and for salmon.
These few changes have allowed the reef net to produce the highest quality salmon with the least environmental impacts.
As this site is still under construction please check back to view pictures and greater details of reef netting.