Gillnetters at Port Edward Harbour in July 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Gillnetters at Port Edward Harbour in July 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Investigating change to B.C.’s fishing licence and quota system

MP Ken Hardie hears from fish harvesters how corporations are favoured under current regime

A federal fisheries committee is considering changes to the quota and licence system for West Coast fishers.

Over 40 fish harvesters spoke on the issue at a pair of meetings in November. Ken Hardie, MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells and a member of the standing committee for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, held the meetings ahead of a federal fisheries policy study due in February.

“Our view so far is that all of the players have acted in good faith. The people who purchased quota have done so with their money looking for an investment but at the same time we see the cultural and social problems that have emerged because the free market system has balanced things a certain way,” Hardie said.

“If you follow the money, the money isn’t sticking to places where the social and cultural issues could be nourished if there was better sharing. This is what we’ve seen so far but we need to confirm that.”

The federal government is currently amending the Fisheries Act, and the DFO committee responsible for reviewing the act decided the West Coast quota and licence system needed further study after hearing testimony from young fishers last May.

READ MORE: Young B.C. fishers instigate study on West Coast licence, quota system

While changes to the licence and quota system are possible, time is limited. The House of Commons rises in June for summer break, and then the federal elections begin.

But Hardie said the all-party committee has dedicated a whole month to the West Coast quota and licence system.

“We want to see what we can do to get to the bottom of this,” he said.

While time may be running out for new legislation, Hardie said regulatory changes could be made quite easily.

The committee has already heard several about challenges the current system poses to West Coast fishers: fish harvesters can’t compete with corporations when it comes to buying licenses and quota; when fishers lease quota or a licence at the beginning of the season the price is based on forecasted landed value, and if the value drops the fisher takes all the risk; high lease rates often doesn’t leave enough money left over to pay for professional crew members and boat maintenance; multiple fishing licenses are stacked, or married, together making it expensive and its difficult to acquire single licenses.

In an early report from Hardie’s office, the West Coast system is compared with the East Coast and Alaska, where the owner-operator policy is applied. This policy requires the licence owners to be on their vessel when they fish. In B.C., licenses and quotas can by owned by fish processors and investors who then lease them out.

“The total value of B.C. fishery is very low compared to the total value of Alaska, so what’s going on there?” Hardie said. “Is it a matter of regulation, are there things that the federal government needs to adjust? Or is it the relationship between quota owners, fishers, the processors, etc.?”

Not everyone agrees that regulatory changes are needed. Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, said there’s always room for discussion, but she doesn’t think it’s possible to transfer East Coast policies to the West Coast.

“We have a completely different history and evolution of fisheries management on this coast going back more than 100 years,” Burridge said. “I can’t tell you how frustrated I am with this concept of the underperformance of B.C. fisheries as compared to Atlantic Canada or to Alaska is. You cannot simply take landed value, and draw that conclusion, it depends entirely on the species mix.”

Hardie is aware that some people are concerned they’re going to blow up the old system and create something entirely new, but says the committee is looking to get the facts, consider options, and then consult with everyone across the board.

Another proposed change is fair-share leasing. A board made up of fish harvesters, licence/quota holders and deckhands would set the maximum leasing percentage at the beginning of the season. For example, they could require that half the profits goes to the fish harvester and half go to the licence quota holder, meaning both parties would split the risks.

“I actually doubt that it would be feasible to implement it,” Burridge said. “Just as you can’t say that to a restaurant owner that the staff must get 50 per cent, you couldn’t say that in fishing business either.”

“That said, I do think there’s room, and most of my members have expressed willingness to have discussions about how leasing works.”

However people feel about moving to an owner-operator system or other possible changes on the West Coast, the fisheries committee is looking for input.

Hardie invites people to listen to the hearings in Ottawa through http://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/FOPO and click on the ‘Participate’ button at the top of the page. Submissions and comments are welcome at e-mail address: Fopo@parl.gc.ca

READ MORE: How four changes to the Fisheries Act may affect the North Coast

To report a typo, email: editor@thenorthernview.com.


Shannon Lough | Editor
Shannon Lough 
Send Shannon email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

DFOFisheries and Oceans Canada

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Gillnetters at Port Edward Harbour in July 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Gillnetters at Port Edward Harbour in July 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Just Posted

Colwood resident, Geoffrey Irwin, has been missing since Sep. 27. His vehicle was found in Vancouver on Nov. 25. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
Police search for Colwood man last seen in September

Geoffrey Irwin’s vehicle was found in Vancouver Nov. 25

BC Transit confirmed on Dec. 1 that a Langford employee has tested positive for COVID-19. (Courtesy of BC Transit)
Langford transit worker tests positive for COVID-19

Island Health is conducting contact tracing for the case

The Capital Regional District and the Habitat Acquisition Fund have agreed to partner on the purchase of the $3.4-million Mountain View Forest in Saanich to establish a new regional park. (Photo courtesy the Habitat Acquisition Trust)
CRD, Habitat Acquisition Trust to spend $3.4M on 20-hectare forest park in Saanich

Mountian Road Forest property to be conserved as regional park

Victoria police have recovered over 30 keys and key fobs after a executing a search warrant Nov. 27. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
VicPD finds fistfuls of keys during search

Anyone who recognizes the keys can call the non-emergency line

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await Commissioner decision on COVID-19 case information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is also the minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

The first of two earthquakes near Alaska on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, is shown in blue. (USGS)
No tsunami risk after two earthquakes near Alaska

Both earthquakes hit near the U.S. state on Dec. 1

The CVRD will reconsider its policies on fireworks after receiving complaints. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Regional District considers options for fireworks after complaints

Distict only allows fireworks on Halloween and New Year’s Eve, with a permit

Most Read