The International Pacific Halibut Commission allocates an annual halibut quota to Canada based on the bio-mass estimated in British Columbia. The Minister of Fisheries then distributes the allocation between Canadian harvesters.
In 2003 the minister established an allocation for Canadian harvesters of 88 per cent commercial and 12 per cent recreational. Recreational includes all Canadians. In 2003 the total Canadian quota was 12.85 million pounds, the recreational share 1.54 million pounds, the recreational limit was two per day and the season was February 1 to December 31.
In 2010 the overall Canadian quota was reduced to 7.51 million pounds, the recreation quota reduced to 900,000 pounds, the recreational limit was reduced to one halibut per day and the season was shortened to include March through mid-October.
Even with these measures, the recreational fishers caught 1.13 million pounds.
The Minster of Fisheries recently announced that this year’s quota would be roughly the same as 2010. The season will open March and close when 2011 quota of 900,000 pounds is caught. She added a new twist and stated that recreational fishing businesses will have the opportunity of purchasing their own private quota from the commercial sector.
The daily limit of one halibut per day with a mid-season closure will absolutely cripple the recreational sports fishing. More importantly the Canadian government is privatizing and allocating away the right of Canadians to access to the common property resource of halibut.
The 88 per cent commercial allocation is basically a bank for halibut allocation. The bank is open for First Nations, commercial fishers, and now recreational purchases. This bank represents the ultimate private ownership of the fishery and unfortunately the 12 per cent left for the Canadian public does not allow, in years of low abundance, enough quota to provide for their right to harvest even one halibut for the whole season.
Although the opening sentence of the Ocean Act states that the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific Oceans are the common heritage of all Canadians, the Fisheries Act states that fishing in not a right of Canadians but a privilege granted by the Minister of Fisheries. There is no recreational harvest of lobsters and crabs in Nova Scotia and the recreational cod fishery in Newfoundland is three weeks in length. It would seem fairly obvious that we are headed down the same path.
On, February 16, my colleagues at the Capital Regional District Board passed a resolution requesting that the Minister of Fisheries, during years of low abundance purchase or lease enough quota from the commercial bank to establish a bare minimum, guaranteed limit and season which would ensure the survival of coastal communities and allow Canadian citizens to have the opportunity to catch one halibut, 11 months of the year.
Although this is a federal responsibility, it is a major issue for every coastal community on Vancouver Island. We are sending a message that we are not Nova Scotia and we are not Newfoundland. We will not stand by and watch the demise of our fishery.
The CRD community of municipalities and electoral areas are stepping-up to represent our constituents and will be asking the rest of the coastal communities to join us in our quest at the AVICC conference in Sidney. I hope we will send a unified voice to Ottawa.
Mike Hicks, Regional DirectorJuan de Fuca