NDP candidates criticizing halibut quota system

DFO’s halibut quota system is privatizing a public resource and hurting B.C.’s coastal economy, say NDP candidates Ronna-Rae Leonard and Nathan Cullen.

DFO’s halibut quota system is privatizing a public resource and hurting B.C.’s coastal economy, say NDP candidates Ronna-Rae Leonard and Nathan Cullen.Leonard (Vancouver Island North) and Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) emphasize the need to maintain conservation of halibut stocks as the first priority.“Conservation is paramount and any decisions around allocation and quota must be precautionary and based on sound science,” said Leonard in a news release Wednesday. “There must be a commitment from all sectors to effective monitoring and fish data collection.”“We are seeing the valuable halibut fishery privatized and Canadian fishermen of all kinds are being shut out. Both commercial and sport fishermen are losing opportunities to access a public resource, in large part due to this Conservative government’s policy of neglect,” said Cullen.Increasingly, halibut quotas are being bought by private interests from outside the region and country and leased back to active commercial and recreational fishermen, they noted. Almost every pound of halibut caught commercially now has such a lease fee attached.“For too long governments have treated our natural resources as some private stock that can be bought and sold without our knowledge or influence. That has to change,” added Leonard.Cullen asserted that the quota system must be reformed so that more benefits go to active fishermen.“One solution being proposed would see DFO take back quota from non-active quota holders and reallocate it to the active commercial and recreational sectors,” said Cullen. “This will give fishermen greater access to the resource, and ensure that more value stays with the people who catch the fish.”Numerous town hall meetings on the halibut allocation issue have been held in communities throughout B.C. Cullen has also met with representatives from both the recreational and commercial sectors.There are 436 commercial halibut license holders in B.C., with fewer than half actively fishing their quotas.“The recreational sector has been raising these issues for seven years, and they feel their concerns have been ignored by this Conservative government, which has sat on the sidelines instead of being proactive” said Cullen. “The Harper government refuses to tell Canadians who owns our country’s fish.”