For quite some time the DFO has been making decisions about the allocation of halibut stocks to the commercial, recreational, and native sectors in British Columbia.
The sports fishing or recreational sector has had little influence over the allocation, probably because of the involvement of the International Halibut Commission that works co-operatively on behalf of the two countries involved, Canada and the United States.
Lately the allocation decisions have begun to significantly reduce the fishing opportunities of the sports fishing sector. Specifically I have noted that changes in retention limits that greatly reduce the opportunity of sport fishers in Kitimat.
We live on the northern end of a narrow fjord that stretches more than 140 km south to Hecate Strait where halibut fishing is predictably good in the summer months.
Fishers in Kitimat have a limit of “one fish per day, two in possession. This is a reduction from two per day three in possession.
If fishers here had to travel just 15 minutes to the predictable fishing grounds that would be reasonable….but in Kitimat the costs and time to reach the fishing grounds make this new limit untenable and quite unfair when you compare our opportunities to fishers in coastal environments like Prince Rupert.
New allocation decisions for 2011 further limit recreational opportunities. The DFO will now limit the length of the season that sports fishers can fish.
When they are deemed to have reached the 12 per cent of the total catch (their allocation), there will be an “in season” closure of that sector. This will obviously affect fishing lodges and charter boats that book people, well ahead of the fishing season, with the expectation that halibut fishing will be part of that experience.
If conservation and reduced biomass was truly a concern of the DFO, then conservation measures such as limiting the maximum length of retained halibut would already have been explored.
What seems to be happening is an unfair allocation shift that impedes the sports fishing sector while the commercial sector is left unscathed by federal regulations.
People living in coastal BC and people who spend their summers fishing off the coast of B.C. are great contributes to the economy and they are quite willing to let this issue drive their political views.