Business fishing boats docked in Steveston / Shutterstock
Canada’s West Coast fishery may very well be in for a sea change, if Parliament accepts and implements 20 suggestions being made by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.
The committee is recommending sweeping adjustments to the best way business fishing licences and quota are owned in B.C. to handle issues of monopolization – together with quota possession by overseas traders who could by no means have set foot on a fishing boat or in Canada – that has turned business fishing in B.C. into “a modern-day feudal system.”
That description got here from Ken Hardie, the Liberal MP who’s answerable for the standing committee enterprise a significant evaluate of the best way the business fishing sector is managed in B.C.
“We heard sufficient to conclude that there are a lot of structural issues in our West Coast fishery,” Hardie stated in a press convention earlier this week, when the suggestions had been tabled.
Whereas business fishermen in B.C. applaud the committee’s suggestions, it could not sit effectively with company house owners, like Jimmy Pattison’s Canadian Fishing Firm (Canfisco), which owns a big quantity of fish quota in B.C.
“It is a enormous change,” stated Jim McIsaac, Pacific vp of the Canadian Impartial Fish Harvesters’ Federation. “The path that the trade goes is driving the unbiased harvester – the small boat fisherman, the Ma and Pa operations – out of enterprise on the coast.”
Phil Younger, senior director for Canfisco, agrees that the what’s proposed is a “enormous change.” He confirms that Canfisco processes 38% to 40% of the salmon caught by the seine fleet, however stated 14 of the boats delivering salmon are independently owned. Canfisco owns 11 of the boats, and co-owns 13 companion boats, during which Canfisco owns half of the quota.
Whereas he stated most of the suggestions appear affordable, he stated implementing all of them goes to be a problem.
“They set an finish objective on a few of these issues,” he stated. “It doesn’t imply they’re all one thing that may be applied or needs to be applied, as soon as they take a look at it.”
The possession of licences and quota in B.C. is totally different from Atlantic Canada and Alaska, the place the individuals who do the fishing – business boat house owners – are likely to personal the licences and quota.
The committee is recommending an evaluation of the west and east coast fisheries in an effort to put them on a degree enjoying discipline. McIsaac interprets that to imply that the West Coast may see “fleet separation.”
“In Atlantic Canada they’ve a factor referred to as fleet separation, the place the processors should not allowed to personal the licences,” McIsaac stated. “That signifies that the licences are within the fingers of fishermen, after which the fishermen have that leverage to barter with processors, which drives value.
“And the identical factor in Alaska. It’s unlawful for processors to personal licences in Alaska for a lot of the fisheries. Consequently there’s a robust competitors for fish.
“That’s not what is occurring in British Columbia. Plenty of the worth of the fish goes offshore and being realized some place else.”
In his press convention Hardie stated fish are presupposed to be frequent property, however that overseas corporations can personal and commerce quota for B.C. fish like inventory. He stated the federal government doesn’t even know, in some instances, who owns the quota.
“Extra troubling is the notion we heard in testimony that offshore cash laundering could also be doing to the value of quota what we suspect it’s accomplished to actual property costs in B.C.,” Hardie stated.
The system in B.C. has advanced in such a approach that small unbiased fishermen in B.C. have change into the trendy day equal of sharecroppers, during which they must pay the house owners of the quota for the correct to fish. The quota house owners find yourself taking 70% to 80% of the worth of the catch, up entrance, Hardie stated.
“In some vogue, it appears like we’ve created a modern-day feudal system,” Hardie stated.
“It was reported final 12 months by one of many fish licence brokerage companies that, of the $60 million in transactions that they dealt with, half of the transactions had been from overseas patrons,” McIsaac stated.
In different phrases, half of the quota in these transactions had been held by overseas house owners.
“So it’s positive to promote fish, our merchandise internationally, however what we’re promoting is the entry to the fish,” McIsaac stated.
The committee recommends that no new quota be issued to overseas house owners and that new limits be positioned on the quantity of quota or variety of licences that may be owned by a person or entity.
Different suggestions embrace:
• a mortgage and mentorship program to assist younger folks enter the fishing trade;
• a buy-back program permitting present license holders to promote boats and quota to youthful individuals who need to enter the business fishing trade; and
• expanded value-added fish processing in BC.