BC’s halibut season opened on March 1st. There has been debate this year about how halibut fish have been allotted to various fisheries. As it is with any highly sought after fish in the market, especially one that is MSC certified and a resource divided among a number of fisheries, disagreements develop between the parties involved. Discontent among the fisheries usually stems from management decisions made by the Minister of Fisheries and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Political issues are not new to the West Coast fishing industry; there has been a long-standing history of disagreement and debate, and it is often about “who gets what” and “for how much.” The halibut fishery is no different, except that it is MSC certified, which means specific fishing regulations and practices must be followed and carefully monitored, which has an impact on total allowable catch and fishing methods.
This year, the Minister of Fisheries has allotted 3% more halibut than last year to the sport and recreation fishery, taking away from the commercial fishery’s allotment. Last year, commercial fisheries had 88% and sport and recreation fisheries, 12%. This year, the 3% reduction has many commercial fishermen upset.
Here are a few reasons why disagreements are taking place:
- Each season, each fishery wants a greater percentage.
- Given that halibut fishery has been MSC certified, it is highly regulated. This means that each commercially caught fish is tagged, numbered, and recorded. The sports and recreation fisheries do not keep the same records and numbers are hard to track. Last year they superceded their 12% allotment.
- Some have argued these allocation decisions are based on political gains.