B.C. salmon fishers fight proposed changes
Independent salmon fishers are opposing potential changes they say would restrict catches to the highest bidder. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
Salmon fishers are opposing potential changes that could limit large catches to the highest bidders, effectively shutting out independent fisheries.
Currently, commercial salmon fishing works on a first-come-first-serve basis where individuals could catch as much as they want. As long as they’re licensed, fishers could keep going until they reach a “total allowable catch,” at which point all commercial salmon fishers must stop for the season.
Kim Olsen, president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union, said on Wednesday a salmon advisory board for Fisheries and Oceans Canada — also known as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans — is now discussing changes to cap the number of fish for each licence holder.
Olsen said the number of existing licenses have already shriveled since the mid-1990s.
DFO spokeswoman Kirsten Ruecker said there wouldn’t be any immediate changes for 2014.
She said DFO is looking to make changes to “enhance long-term sustainability of Pacific wild salmon,” generate more economic benefit and make commercial salmon fisheries more “resilient.”
If the change was approved, Olsen speculated a bidding war could start, and those with the most cash would snap up any licences that haven’t fully exploited catch limits.
Olsen said it’s exactly what happened with commercial halibut fishing after “individual transferable quotas” were implemented two decades ago for that species.
“What ends up happening is the guys with the deepest pockets, the multi corporations, end up buying all the quotas and they end up owning the salmon resources,” said Olsen, who led a protest outside an advisory meeting in downtown Wednesday.