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Author Topic: Halibut Article - Telling It Like It Is...  (Read 2160 times)


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Halibut Article - Telling It Like It Is...
« on: June 19, 2009, 11:07:17 AM »

Meanwhile, Rural BC is Left Suffering

By Jeremy Maynard, Courier-IslanderJune 17, 2009

With days of the year soon to start getting shorter, there's not much use pretending any longer that the federal government will change its mind this fishing season and start managing the halibut resource for the maximum social and economic benefit to Canada. Instead the recreational fishery, the means by which the non-commercial fishing public has access to halibut, remains at minimal limits and with no certainty about season length despite catching a minority share of the harvest.

Any energy in the minister's office for resolving a situation that runs counter to high profile efforts elsewhere in the federal government to keep people working appears to be spent on a steady stream of letters to individuals and organizations justifying what is in effect a "reverse stimulus" policy for coastal communities.

About the best thing that can be said for these letters is that they are consistent in content, although the reasoning would appear to defy common sense or a usual understanding of the English language. For example, the minister continues to insist that Pacific halibut are a common property resource even though 88 per cent of the available harvest after First Nations Food, Social and Ceremonial needs are accounted for is in the hands of several hundred halibut quota holders.

With the original quota shares having been awarded gratis by government, the majority of this supposedly common property resource can only be transferred (buy/sell/lease) between license holders via an active trading market for significant sums of money even though a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision has ruled that fishery quota holders have no proprietary interest in the fish until they are caught.

The Thibault halibut allocation announcement directed the recreational fishery to acquire additional halibut to maintain customary limits and season length from the commercial sector via an as yet to be determined "market-based mechanism".

Nearly six years later the federal government has failed to provide either the legal or fiscal ability for the recreational fishery to acquire halibut beyond the 12 per cent catch share ceiling imposed in late 2003, despite the best efforts of volunteers from the Sport Fishing Advisory Board to work with both government and other interests in finding a way to meet this requirement.

For all intents and purposes the federal government has now given up on finding a way in assisting Canadian anglers to meet the terms of the Thibault policy, despite the minister's sincere comment in a letter to the BC Wildlife Federation that her department "is genuinely committed to finding a solution to this very complicated problem". The admission is a little startling considering the complications stem directly from a past government decision that the current government seems determined to uphold in the face of all reason to the contrary.

Minister Shea's letter then goes on to say that DFO will "continue to seek ways of reconciling perspectives and identifying solutions that acknowledge the complexity of the recreational industry".

I confess to being unsure what the complexity she refers to actually is. My understanding is that anglers purchase a license and they get to go fishing for fish that the minister confirms is a common property resource - how complicated is that?

It's not the recreational fishery that's complicated, it's the management construct that government has placed the recreational fishery for halibut in, at the behest it should be remembered of the commercial sector.

The Thibault decision came about simply because the commercial quota holders came to feel that the angling public was catching too many of what it regarded as its fish and advocated that the recreational fishery be capped at 5 per cent of the commercial/recreational catch share. I guess we're supposed to feel grateful the government didn't effectively privatize 95 per cent of the halibut resource.

Because of the social and economic consequences, resolving the halibut allocation issue is important in and of itself, however it needs to be remembered that government is moving towards managing all commercial fisheries using quotas.

Thus the current halibut situation provides a powerful example of what might occur for all species unless the needs of the recreational fishery i.e. for the Canadian public, are explicitly considered before new management regimes are implemented.

It also needs to be remembered that I have on several occasions this year asked John Duncan as the MP for the Vancouver Island North riding to provide a justification for his governments' support and continuation of a policy that is causing negative economic consequences in coastal communities; so far no explanation has been forthcoming.

I can understand a reluctance to defend the indefensible but I believe his constituents are owed something better.

Copyright Canwest News Service

Pretty much sums up the present situation. And as is far to common, The Dino Ducks and refuses to address a mess of their own making.