Topics of Interest

BCWF Questions Why Public Access to Halibut Closed, While Private Harvest Continues

Vancouver, BC – So, you thought Canada’s fish resources were owned by the public. Not according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), says The BC Wildlife Federation.

On October 18 the public will be prohibited from retaining halibut for the rest of the year while private interests continue to harvest this species. Once again, the Harper government, through the actions of DFO, skewers coastal communities in BC by depriving them of economic opportunities from the recreational fishery. Why? Because, in contravention of the Fisheries Act, our federal government has gifted 88% of the total allowable catch quota of halibut to 327 private businessmen to dispose of as they choose.

“Over half of this commercial quota is not even being fished by the original quota recipients,” said Wayne Harling, a member of BCWF’s Tidal Water Fisheries Committee. “Instead, they lease ‘their’ quota annually for $2 -$3 per pound (in some cases, this amounts to more than $100,000) and  retire to warmer climates at the expense of the Canadian public. And that gift was permanent which means that their quota can be sold or passed on to relatives in perpetuity, even if the recipients never fish for halibut”.

“This gifting of halibut quota is just the tip of the iceberg”, said Paul Rickard, also a member of BCWF’s  Tidal Water Fisheries Committee .” Unless there is a public uproar over this give-away, of halibut, DFO intends to go the same route for all commercially-caught fish and shellfish on the Pacific coast. All Canadians who value our public fishery should contact Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea to voice their concern.”


For further information, please contact Patti MacAhonic, Executive Director, BCWF, at 604-291-9990 extension 230 or 604-308-1914.

Privatization of Resource Puts Public Fishery in Jeopardy

BCWF Press Release
February 20, 2009

Vancouver – “The decision of past federal Ministers of Fisheries to restrict the public fishery to a mere 12% of the total allowable catch (TAC) of halibut for the recreational fishery will result in significant reductions in limits and fishing time for anglers in 2009. This decision will have an immense adverse impact on the economic and social benefits derived from this fishery,” B.C. Wildlife Federation president Mel Arnold announced today.

“Considering that the allocation of halibut to public fisheries in jurisdictions south and north of B.C. are 51% and 20% respectively, we can only surmise that, by restricting the public¹s allocation to only 12% of TAC, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is deliberately and capriciously trying to minimize, if not eliminate entirely, the public fishery for halibut in the Pacific region of Canada,” Arnold warned.

Continue reading Privatization of Resource Puts Public Fishery in Jeopardy

Halibut: The Executive Study

History – ITQ or “ Defined Shares”

1)    For reasons of safety at sea and market stability for commercial fishermen, DFO introduced an individual vessel quota system (IVQ) some years ago in which each license holder received a share of the Canadian Total Allowable Catch (TAC) based on the average of his/her landings over a previous number of years. However, instead of leasing these quotas to commercial license holders annually and thereby obtaining rent for commercial access to this public resource, the Minister of the day decided, without any consultation with the Sport Fishing Advisory Board (SFAB), to simply “gift” the entire Canadian share of the TAC to individual halibut fishermen as Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ’s) who qualified under the landing criteria for their private use in perpetuity. At that time the halibut catch in the public fishery was assumed to be so low that it was simply ignored. Since our fishery was to be saved “harmless” in this change, there was no need to comment. Using ITQ’s, DFO has also gifted 100% of the Sablefish and Geoduc TAC to the commercial sector. Again, the sport catch of both species is such a small percentage of the TAC’s that it was, and still is, ignored.

2)    By 2000, the commercial sector was concerned enough about the Public, Recreational Fishery, in their minds a re-allocation of their gifted quota, that they convinced DFO to strike a halibut allocation committee to establish a harvest sharing arrangement with our sector. The commercial harvesters wanted us capped at 5% of the TAC (at this time, we were unknowingly harvesting at least 7 or 8%) while we took the position that, since the resource was owned by the people of Canada, there should be no cap on the Public Fishery beyond reasonable bag/possession limits to prevent abuse of our right to harvest fish in tidal waters.

This stalemate was then turned over to an arbitrator for a decision and he recommended 9%. The DFO Minister of the day delivered an edict that capped public access to the resource at 12% of the TAC. At that time, DFO estimated our Recreational Sector was catching about 9% of the TAC, and their 12% decision, in their minds, gave us room for growth.

Minister Thibault also decided that part of the process in setting defined shares and fixed percentage allocation, any increase in catch requirements for the recreational sector beyond the 12% would have to be reached by the purchase of quota by the recreational sector from the commercial sector in a “market-based mechanism”

Unfortunately Minister Thibault, or his staff, failed to understand that the recreational community has no legal society or company, and therefore no means to raise or hold money, or purchase or lease anything.

Continue reading Halibut: The Executive Study

Response to the David Suzuki Foundation On Halibut

David Suzuki Foundation Press Release

As a coastal resident that uses this resource to feed my family I was floored by the comments made. I could not believe what I read so I called Scott Wallace who’s name is on the bottom of the letter and ask for clarification. I questioned him about how 88% of the halibut quota was gifted to the commercial fleet with 12% going to the common property owners of this resource, public. I asked why there was opposition from the DS foundation to shift commercial quota back to public to meet their needs. I pointed out that the commercial fleet is unable to sell their entire catch and has tons of halibut in cold storage. I advised him that the commercial fleet catching and killing what they can’t sell is not conservation minded and a waste of a publicly revered and valuable resource. In the end I advised Scott that I was disgusted with his comments and lack of regard to public interest and failure to base input on true conservational merit was lacking and has now tarnished in my opinion the David Suzuki Foundation. He noted that 70% of the sport angling catch is that of the lodges. I questioned if he was a lobbyist for or worked within the commercial halibut fishing fleet as his comments appeared to be in support of the commercial interests and to that of privatizing the halibut fishery.