Recreational halibut closure unfair to local operators

Oak Bay Marine Group spokesperson calls out Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Last month’s announcement of a shut-down of recreational fishing is terrible news for coastal communities.

Our company operates a number of businesses on the coast of British Columbia, including sports fishing resorts and marinas. Several of these businesses will be severely impacted by this closure. Our employees will soon be dealing with guests that are unable to fulfill their plans to fish halibut, guests that in many cases travelled from great distances, at great expense, to have that experience.

We’re also dealing with cancellations. We’ll no doubt be cutting back staffing levels accordingly, resulting in a ripple effect of lost economic activity for these communities where our employees live, work and spend money.

In difficult economic times, the results of DFO’s policy are completely contradictory to the government of Canada’s attempts to provide economic stimulus.

It’s quite simple. The recreational sector, based on its contribution to the economy of Canada, needs more than 12 per cent of the allowable catch. We are by no means advocating higher catch limits than what is prescribed at the beginning of each fishing season for halibut. We just need a bigger slice of the pie to stay in business.

Our friends in the commercial sector will also argue that they need to make a living. We wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, what has occurred by the protection of this halibut quota is that the quota holders are literally making hundreds of thousands of dollars selling their quota (which was acquired for free) every year. Less than one third of these quota holders actually fish. So in truth, DFO is really protecting big business and quota traders, not the livelihoods of commercial fishermen.

If things don’t change, how could we interpret a perpetuation of the existing halibut allocation policy to be anything other than DFO being influenced more by big business and quota traders than by the economic and social needs of thousands in coastal communities?

Then there’s DFO’s “experimental fishery,” which is essentially the recreational sector paying big business and quota traders for a right to catch some of their “gifted” halibut quota. Surely DFO can’t be serious?

Lanny Sawchuk

executive vice-president,

chief operations officer

Oak Bay Marine Group

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