Purse seines are used in the open ocean to target dense schools of single-species pelagic (midwater) fish. Purse-seine fishing in open water is one of the most common fishing methods worldwide. Seine boats are large and use the assistance of a small skiff to help deploy a large wall of the net around an entire area or school of fish The seine floats along the top line with a lead line threaded through rings along the bottom. Once a school of fish is located, a skiff encircles the school of fish with the net. The lead line is then pulled in, “pursing” the net closed on the bottom, preventing fish from escaping by swimming downward.

This method is widely considered to be one of the most efficient forms of fishing due to its ability to catch large amounts of fish in a single operation, while also minimizing bycatch and other environmental impacts. The catch is harvested by either hauling the net aboard or bringing it alongside the vessel. The size and shape of purse seines vary depending on the vessel, mesh size, and target species being fished for. This allows harvesters to maximize their catch while increasing their profitability in a sustainable manner.

Seine harvesters deploy their nets and locate fish by using their knowledge, radar fish finders, birds, and mammals to help identify the exact location and size of a school. With this combination of knowledge, technology, and nature, seiners can harvest their quota during the best times to ensure the highest quality catch. Seine fishing is both sustainable and selective.

Seine boats harvest both Salmon and Herring in BC. Approximately 50% of the commercial Salmon catch is harvested using purse seines. Mainly Sockeye, Pink, and Chum salmon are harvested using Seine boats. Salmon are targeted by species, encircled by the seine net, and then harvested from the net using a “brailer” which is a small dip net. The catch is hauled on board with the brailer. The fish are alive and placed on a sorting table where they are identified by species. If any non-target species are present, they are returned safely to the water. The Seine fishery is highly selective and monitored to ensure that each licence holder does not exceed their Total Allowable Catch each year.

See more about the Salmon fishery here.

Pacific Herring harvesters use seine boats in two different Herring fisheries in BC, the Food and Bait fishery and the Herring Roe fishery. During the Food and Bait Fishery, seiners target schools of fish as they are migrating into shallow waters to spawn, typically in late Winter. Seine boats harvest Herring Roe during the early stages of the Herring spawn, typically during early Spring. The seine fishery is heavily monitored, and all Herring catch must be validated at the end of the fishing day so that the quota is not exceeded. For example, the Herring Roe seine fishery typically lasts for just two days until the quota is met.

See more about the Herring fishery here.