Over the years, I have been reading one sided misinformation from writers who support money making commercial charter and lodge operations over the 88/12 split in the halibut industry. There are accusations of “Slipper Skippers” and a public resource being given to commercial fisherman for free.
Who are the biggest “Slipper Skippers?” Maybe it’s the owner of eight, 44ft commercial lodge charter boats packing 20-30 customers in Ukee Harbour? Maybe the owner of a fleet of 20 or so high-speed aluminum charter boats at Langara Lodge? Or maybe some lodges in-between? I am not too sure. I wonder how many pounds of halibut cross their docks, and how much money is made each year. I know it’s more then a lot of commercial fisherman own or earn.
First Nations people own a large portion (17%) of the commercial quota and licenses. The commercial fisherman have been fishing halibut for 100 years, long before any charter boats and lodges were ever thought of. The vast majority of commercial fisherman have been selling or purchasing their licenses since the DFO first issued them in 1979 (including myself), and licenses with quota attached since 1991 and licenses and/or quota since 1999. In 1991 each fisherman was allocated a quota based on his past catch history. They have earned it through years and years of blood, sweat and tears, and sometimes death in one of the toughest and most grueling fisheries in BC. Nobody got their halibut quota for free.
30 or so years ago commercial halibut licenses were capped at 435 vessels with length restrictions for conservation reasons. So answer these questions: Are there any restrictions on how many commercial sport lodges can be built? Are there any restrictions on how big a charter vessel can be? Or are there any restrictions on how big of a fleet of boats one lodge can operate? Also, how many people those vessel are able pack? I think most people know the answers. There are zero restrictions in the growing commercial sport industry.
To take halibut quota from the commercial and First Nations fisherman who have helped model one of the best run and most accountable fisheries in the world, and give it to a growing commercial sport industry with very little history, no caps, no charter vessel length restrictions, and no accountability for their by catch or actual numbers seems absolutely ludicrous! The commercial halibut fishermen are accountable for every pound of halibut and by-catch caught. BC commercial and First Nations fishermen have seen their allowable catch levels reduced by approximately 47% since 2007.
The commercial charter and lodge industry is growing out of control and needs some restrictions applied like all other industries in Canada. They can make it work. They need to come to the table and figure out a way to trade, rent or buy quota from the commercial and First Nations fishermen in years of low stock abundance. Instead of trying to take it through political lobbying and false accusations in news papers and emails.
The halibut industry should be separated into 3 categories: Commercial, Sport Commercial and Recreational.