I continue to be absolutely astonished at Fisheries Minister Gail Shea’s refusal to alter the absurd allocation of the annual Canadian halibut catch between the commercial and recreational sectors (88 per cent commercial, 12 per cent recreational) given the vocal feedback she’s received from the recreational sector in recent months.
This reaffirmation of a fatally flawed policy will put businesses at risk that contribute heavily to the economy of British Columbia. The resorts that our company operates will be amongst these.
One myth I’d like to dispel is that we in the recreational fishing sector hate commercial fishermen. We actually have the utmost respect for the hard-working people that make up the commercial sector. In fact, we believe that it’s unfortunate that DFO policies are not helping them to make a living either.
The facts show that the minister’s policy really acts to protect the small (just over 400) group of halibut quota holders that were gifted halibut quota several years back. Many of these folks don’t fish anymore and make serious money selling their quota to hard-working fishermen who are squeezed in the middle.
And now DFO wants the recreational sector to buy quota from these quota holders, too? I don’t think so.
One need not be a DFO scientist or a senior bureaucrat to read between the lines of the minister’s decision. Despite the fact that halibut stocks are strong, despite the fact that sports-caught halibut yield many times the economic benefit of those commercially caught, and despite the fact that literally thousands of people have recently expressed their wish to see DFO change its halibut allocation policy, the “rights” of quota holders have been upheld.
It’s hardly a demonstration of democratic principles in action. Chalk one up for the lobby efforts of the quota holders.
Editor’s note: Lanny Sawchuk is the chief operations officer of Victoria-based Oak Bay Marine Group.