03/08/2013 10:25 EST | Updated 05/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Camps face worker shortage as eulachon fishery rebounds

The eulachon fishery in northwest B.C. is rebounding after a few rough years but the fishery now has a new challenge — a lack of workers.

Steve Doolan has fished for the small, oily members of the smelt family — also known as candlefish — at a camp in Gingolx along the Nass River for the past 30 years.

He says the number of fish is back up after a decline several years ago, but his camp has less than half the usual number of fishermen.

"This year we're pretty weak on manpower."

Doolan says some stay away because of the demanding nature of the work.

"Once in a while, we'll have two or three new guys but they can't handle the work because it's tough, physical work,” he said.

“You’ve gotta go out and catch the fish on the going down tide and sometimes the going down tide is one, three in the morning. Then when you get in after five or six hours of fishing, you gotta unload all that fish."

Doolan says three other camps in the area aren't running this year because they don't have enough people.

But it's not just the hard work keeping workers away.

Doolan says many people are working on the Northwest Transmission line and other resource projects.

"I think it's just going to get worse for us for getting crews together because more and more work is becoming available."

If that's the case, Doolan says it's not a lack of fish they have to worry about, but a lack of fishermen.