Size doesn’t matter, say sport fishermen: weighing in on halibut controversy

Dear editor

The comments made by Port Alice Councillor Don Vye in regards to the “Halibut allocation debate”, demonstrate his complete lack of understanding of this important issue. He suggests that the issue has been caused by recreational anglers catching “trophy” halibut, but he fails to acknowledge that commercial anglers receive a premium from buyers for bigger fish, and on average catch larger fish!

Amongst all the smoke and mirrors, the real issue is the inability of our decision makers to develop an acceptable mechanism, by which portions of a common property resource can be equitably transferred, from one user group to another. It’s about “allocation“, not “conservation“,  our halibut stocks are indeed very healthy.

Recreational anglers have been asking DFO to fulfill its promises and allocate a greater portion of a common property resource to the next generation of Canadians. I wonder if Mr. Vye understands that the Recreational and First Nations allocation’s are the only portions of the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) guaranteed to be owned by Canadians in perpetuity? The rest can be monopolized by big business and sold to foreign interests, there is no clause preventing this from happening!

In 2008 during the “Gordon Process“, all stakeholders (Recreational, First Nations and Commercial) agreed on the mechanism of a “Halibut Stamp”, by which to raise funds and purchase more quota for the recreational sector, we actually had “consensus“. This mechanism was subsequently rejected by the treasury board for reasons not fully explained, but apparently we can have a stamp for salmon, go figure.

Now DFO is determined to see Canadians “lease” their rights to catch a fish from a private company. What this means is that a parent who wants to take their child fishing after an “in season” closure, will have to pay the going lease rate (currently $5.00 per pound and rising) to fish for and retain Halibut. That’s right, a 25lb “Chicken” will cost you an additional $125 if you can find the quota to lease.  Don’t be surprised if this happens with other species such as Salmon, Lingcod and Shellfish. You can only imagine the devastating effects this will have on our local tourism industry.

The real culprit behind this debacle, is the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (Gail Shea) for not properly managing our resources, and not developing an appropriate mechanism by which to transfer quota from one sector to another. Instead she prefers to cause division within our communities, and watch us squabble amongst ourselves!

Michael Kelly

Port Hardy