I want to tell you about a day in my life as a commercial fisher.
My day starts way before we are on the water at the fishing grounds. It starts on the first day of the season when we meet with the Archipelago (contracted by DFO).
We are still tied to the dock. They need to install two cameras, a computer and a GPS with a live feed. This will run 24/7 the entire time we are on the water fishing.
Every time you start your drum, it starts recording and it records the whole time you are fishing. It also keeps a track line, monitored by the GPS of your whole trip. We then receive a number, which we must use to hail out once we are ready to leave port.
So let’s fast-forward a bit. Now we are out on the water on the fishing grounds. Our hooks are baited and we are ready to make our first set.
But wait! As our line is set, we must mark the time and our co-ordinates, longitude and latitude and the water depth in the log book.
We mustn’t forget the kind and size of the hook and what kind of bait and its size in ounces, and how many hooks on each line, called a skate.
We must also record the minimum and maximum depth of the water.
Okay, we are ready to fish.
We then set out our gear. By the time all the gear is set it’s time to start hauling in the first set.
Each set is marked with a numbered buoy on each end. When hauling in the gear you have to record the time and which set you are hauling.
Remember you are being monitored and recorded on that camera the entire time.
Every species that is caught is to be counted whether released or kept. On our boat I use tally counters to keep track of the numbers.
The halibut needs to be counted and an estimate on the total weight of each set recorded in the logbook.
If for some reason your camera, GPS or computer breaks down, you may no longer fish; you are to go to port.
Next, it’s time to mark down and count every species including all the by-catch and note what you release and whether they are marketable or unmarketable.
You do this between other tasks.
Every halibut you keep or release gets marked down too.
You have to estimate the weight of all the ones you are keeping and remember to record it in your log book.
Don’t even try to think about eating one of those fish either. It’s not allowed.
So maybe I fibbed: this might not typically be one day in the life of a fisher, more like up to a week.
It’s real hard, honest work which I really enjoy.
Okay – back to work now: when returning to port we must hail in with our total catch number of halibut kept and estimated weight. And report any other species kept as well.
Once we have hailed in we are to go straight to the plant to off-load, where we are met by Archipelago, who checks and retrieves the tapes of our trip and take our log book.
Every last fish is counted and weighed and the halibut is tagged.
Archipelago monitors the off-loading and checks our logbooks against the actual count and weight of our catch to the tune of $117.50 an hour, which we the fishers pay for.
If we are more than 10 per cent off our estimate they can audit us. If they choose to audit (using the video tapes of the 24/7 fishing trip) they will charge you $117.50/hour to do so.
We also pay a $1,000 fee every year plus $60 a day for the cameras whether you are fishing or tied up at the dock.
Once Archipelago is finished with the logbook, they return your books with a hail out number for you to use on your next trip; again you cannot fish without it.
Then they come check your hatches, just to make sure.
And you are done that fishing trip.
As you can see, commercial fishers are exhaustively well-monitored.
Canada (DFO) has been complimented for the sustainability of its commercial halibut fishery. It is a lot of work, but in the end I don’t mind because it keeps us accountable.
What I do mind is that the sports commercial fishery is not monitored and held accountable to the same rigorous standards. Maybe if they were, there wouldn’t be a problem with over harvesting their 12 per cent.
My question is how is the sports commercial fishery being monitored? My educated guess is not hardly at all.
If they were there should not be a problem with over fishing their quota.
Skipper, Skeena Son Rise.