After seven frustrating years of consultation with DFO, briefs to the minister and facilitated round table discussions, the BC Wildlife Federation has joined the B.C. Sportfishing Coalition to fight a looming disaster in this years’ halibut fishing season.
The current minister has refused to correct the unfair, inadequate and, we suggest, illegal quota system that allocates only 12 per cent of Canada’s halibut Total Allowable Catch (TAC) to the public fishery, while conveying permanent ownership of remaining 88 per cent to a few hundred commercial harvesters.
This unbalanced allocation will, for the third year, result in closure of the public fishery while commercial harvesters continue to fish.
Halibut is not the only species to which DFO intends to unduly restrict public access. We are witnessing similar situations developing for prawns, crabs and salmon.
DFO has already allocated all of the allowable catch of Sablefish and geoduck to private interests.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation can only conclude the DFO intends to privatize all marine fisheries and severely restrict the public’s right to access these common property resources.
What is most disturbing about the giveaway of halibut quota is that fewer than half of the original recipients actually fish for halibut. Instead of these quotas being returned to the Crown and reallocated at a nominal cost to active harvesters and the public fishery, the vast majority of halibut quota is leased to other fishermen and provides windfall profits for the quota holders without them even stepping aboard a fishing vessel.
DFO should adopt a policy of “fish it or lose it” with respect to halibut quotas.
Instead, the non-fishing “slipper skippers” lease their quota to about 136 people who actually do fish halibut. Incredibly, these “slipper skippers” and their heirs get to do this forever at the expense of the resource owners.
BCWF does not accept this unbalanced allocation of the public’s resource.
Consultation with DFO has achieved little more than to keep this issue from public scrutiny.
It is time to take the issue of DFO privatization of our common property resources to the next level.
We encourage anyone who fishes or supports continued public ownership of marine resources to consult the website www.sfibc.com, attend the town hall meetings listed there, learn the facts, and send a personal message to the prime minister and your local MP.