BC’s Halibut Fishery

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 Last year they superceded their 12% allotment.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.

To learn more about the halibut fishery controversy please refer to the following articles in The Vancouver Sun, The Times Colonist, and Westerly News.

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