As a private citizen who enjoys a fish dinner, I detected some myths in Ms. Lillian Szpak’s letter, “Protect our Fishery.” The West Coast fishery is monitored by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.
Allotments are made to Alaska, British Columbia and the western States. In 2003 Fishery Minister Robert Thibeault, under the Jean Chretien Liberal Government, divided the B.C. quota between the First Nations and the Fishing Industry. He gave 12 per cent to the recreational fishermen and 88 per cent to the offshore commercial fishermen, who make their livelihood and risk their lives to put fish in the grocery stores and supply the restaurants and fish and chip stores. This quota, like the milk quotas has become a marketable commodity. The commercial fishermen purchase their quotas. They then have the added expense of camera supervision which monitors their catch in detail. The exact quantity and size of fish is recorded. No fish under 32 inches, ie. eight-years-old, can be harvested. On return to port, the whole catch is again supervised and recorded by fishery officers before it can be marketed. This is at the considerable expense of the boat owners.
The 12 per cent quota for the recreational fishermen is cost free. It is not monitored. Fishers are permitted to catch one halibut a day and have two in possession, this for their private freezers.
Since 2005 there has been a big increase in charter boat operations and fishing lodges, who bring customers from all over, local and out of province. These customers pay big money and bring in tourist dollars which benefit the economy. They would like the opportunity to catch more than one fish a day. This puts a tremendous pressure on the 12 per cent quota. It may well cause the season to end very early. This will be devastating for this industry.
Fishery Minister Shea is well aware of the problem. She has asked the charter lodges to buy more quota on the market for this year. She has also requested that all the parties involved meet together to propose a workable solution for next year and for future seasons.
Anyone interested in this whole situation can do their own research by following the links from Pacific Halibut Management Association, PMHA, or I.P.H.A. on the Internet.