Halibut ‘facts’ slanted and wrong

Dear editor,

Dear editor,

The press release from our MP’s Office on halibut allocation and Mr. Dave Hardie’s letter to the editor on what he erroneously sees as the problem with our West Coast halibut are both slanted and just plain wrong.

I am one of the 100,000 anglers who fish for halibut in the public fishery. I have no connections with the recreational fishing guides or the lodges.

They really don’t need me to “defend” their interests, but I am getting fed up with the misinformation the public is being fed by MP John Duncan, DFO and the commercial halibut lobby.

First, let’s dispel the myth that there is a conservation concern with the halibut. Pacific halibut stocks in both Canadian and American waters are managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission.

It is widely recognized that Pacific halibut are one of the best-managed fish stocks in the world. The IPHC is responsible for the “science” and do an excellent job.

MP Duncan is well aware of that fact. Even he recognized that recent reductions in the total allowable catch is due to a cyclical phase in the exploitable biomass. Canada’s total catch is adjusted every year to reflect that.

Where the conflict has arisen is from the decision by DFO in Ottawa to give away 88 per cent of Canada’s halibut initially to 436 commercial fishermen, most of whom no longer fish, but rather lease out their windfall quota to other fishermen at elevated prices.

Only 126 of the 436 quota holders actually get in a boat and go out fishing. Pretty good deal for the select Canadians that were gifted a common property of Canada at the public’s expense.

Now that the public is demanding access to more of their halibut to avoid early season closures and reduced bag limits, we are characterized as greedy. I do believe Canada needs a healthy commercial fishery, too.

Right from Day One, recreational anglers have been adamant that the 12 per cent left over for us was not enough and it has landed on deaf ears for too many years.

MP Duncan is ignoring the fact that the lodges and guides are facilitators, offering transportation to fishing grounds, and the lodge is no different than any hotel/motel on Vancouver Island. Both contribute immensely to the Island’s economy.

To put to rest another myth being pushed by some commercial fishermen, the majority of clients using lodges and guides are Canadian citizens, greater than 90 per cent actually.

Canadians want to go out and catch a halibut, which is the common property of all citizens of this country, not just a select 436 individuals.

There have been a number of federal buybacks of commercial fishing quota/licences in the past. Currently off the East Coast, there is a buyback of commercial lobster licences.

It’s time for another one. It’s only fair. C. Nestor,

Courtenay

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