Halibut allocation unfair to recreational anglers

On Jan. 3 I was at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association when the panel chaired by Paul Rickard of the B.C. Sport Fishing Coalition presented their concerns about the current situation of allocation of halibut in our West Coast fishery. Other members of the panel were Wayne Harling, BC Wildlife Federation, Ted Brookman, Vancouver Island Region of the BC Wildlife Federation, and Derrick Kiefting from the Sport Fishing Institute. Their main concern was the effect of DFO policy of reducing the recreational share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) as prescribed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). They have a right to be concerned.

Ralph Shaw with a 50-pound halibut he used to illustrate the Total Allowable Catch. Photo Courtesy RALPH SHAW

On Jan. 3 I was at the Courtenay and District Fish and Game Protective Association when the panel chaired by Paul Rickard of the B.C. Sport Fishing Coalition presented their concerns about the current situation of allocation of halibut in our West Coast fishery. Other members of the panel were Wayne Harling, BC Wildlife Federation, Ted Brookman, Vancouver Island Region of the BC Wildlife Federation, and Derrick Kiefting from the Sport Fishing Institute. Their main concern was the effect of DFO policy of reducing the recreational share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) as prescribed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). They have a right to be concerned.

In 2003 the Thibault Allocation Policy was implemented. It had the following major components:

The Canadian TAC available to the commercial and recreation fisheries are split to provide 88 per cent to the 435 original quota holders, and 12 per cent to the 100,000-plus recreational participants in the public fishery. The policy stated that it was in place until an acceptable mechanism could be worked out for the recreational sector to gain more quotas. It was also agreed that the recreational fishery would not face closures in mid-season. Well it seems that nothing has been worked out to solve the problem.

For guidance it is worth looking at how the other jurisdictions allocate their TAC among the user groups. In Washington State the recreational fishery is allocated 50 per cent of the TAC after the First Nations needs are met. In southeast Alaska, where the bulk of the recreational fishing takes place, they receive 20 per cent of their TAC. So it raises the intriguing question of how did the Canadian recreational fishery come up so short on an equitable allocation when halibut are one of the vital components of recreational fishing in British Columbia coastal waters? For local folks they make an important contribution to recreation and associated food gathering facets of recreational fishing. For our sustainable tourism industry they have become almost as important as salmon.

During the 1980s and early 1990 I represented the recreational fishery for the Sport Fishing Advisory Board at numerous halibut conference board meetings along with Ken Jenkins from Port Hardy who represented the charter boat industry. At that time the recreational allocation was 20 per cent and if we didn’t harvest our allocation, commercial fishery harvested the surplus. Why did it change?

To illustrate the gross unfairness of the current allocation policy by DFO I have used a picture of a 50-pound halibut I caught a few years ago. Consider the fish to represent the total TAC for the Canadian fishery. For the tens of thousands of recreational anglers their share would be six pounds, for the 435 original quota holders their share would be 44 pounds. This is how the current DFO policy divides a common property resource of the people of Canada.

The coalition is following up with a series of town hall meetings to further discuss the issues. There will be a town hall meeting in Campbell River on Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Maritime Centre at 621 North Island Highway. If present allocation policies continue we face serious reductions in recreational fishing opportunities to catch a common property resource – Pacific halibut. I urge you to make the effort to attend this important meeting.

You may also wish to write letters expressing your concern to Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries, Parliament Buildings, Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON, Kl A OA6, Canada, and John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 600 Confederation Building, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A OA6, Canada or better still visit him at his Courtenay office because he is our member of Parliament and express your concerns about the unfairness of the allocation process.

I further suggest a letter to Prime Minister Steven Harper would be appropriate. Democracy works best when citizens take part in the process and make their concerns known to those we elect to government

• • •

On Saturday, Jan. 15 from 10 a.m. to approximately 3 p.m. the annual Antler Measuring Day will be held at the Courtenay & District Fish and Game Protective Association clubhouse. This is a family oriented day with lunch and treats served. Tyee Marine will be on hand with generous prizes throughout the day. There is a $5 measuring fee for non-members.

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