Sport Fishing Businesses, Not Just Commercial Fishermen, Must Pay the Costs of Conservation
VANCOUVER, Aug. 22, 2011 /CNW/ - The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has announced a closure for the 2011 recreational halibut season at 23:59 on September 5 as the fishery has achieved its allowable catch limit.
"It is the right decision to make," says Chris Sporer, manager of the Pacific Halibut Management Association (PHMA) which speaks for B.C. commercial halibut fishermen. "Such decisions can be difficult and no one wants to see the recreational fishery closed, but everyone must bear the costs of conservation."
The fishing lodge and charter vessel sector presently accounts for a whopping 60 to 70 per cent of the recreational halibut harvest, a significant increase from just over a decade ago when it caught 50 per cent. As a result, the recreational fishery has exceeded its catch limit in five of the last six years. "DFO closes the season to protect the halibut resource from overharvest," Sporer says.
Commercial fishermen will continue fishing until November 18. Sporer notes, "The commercial fishing industry has deliberately designed its fishery so the available catch is spread over the entire season, thereby providing consumers with greater access to fresh product." Sporer says his members are willing to help the recreational side by leasing quota to them.
"We support what DFO is doing and we're willing to make quota available for lease to lodges, charter vessels and individual recreational harvesters," he says, "for the same price we ourselves must pay to access more fish."
In February of this year, the previous Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced a trial program whereby lodges and charter vessels, and even individual recreational harvesters, can apply for experimental halibut licences that will allow them to lease quota from commercial fishermen. Quota is available at www.IQMI.ca.
Sporer says he does not know how much quota may be leased for use in the recreational fishery. For an annual fee of $21, Canadian recreational harvesters can catch one halibut per day, each and every day, for the entire season. "There is not much incentive to lease quota while the fishery is open. This could change once the fishery closes." According to Sporer there is a precedent. In 2004 and 2005 commercial fishermen leased halibut from the recreational sector while in 2008, 2009 and 2010 the recreational sector leased halibut quota from individual commercial halibut fishermen.
"Any leasing will likely be relatively modest," he says. DFO records show that the vast majority of the recreational harvest, approximately 94 per cent, is normally taken before September 1 in any given year so the fishery will be virtually over by the time the closure comes into effect. Sporer says commercial fishermen are in the same boat as recreational harvesters and lodges and charter vessels.
"Canada is in a period of low halibut abundance. That affects everyone."
DFO is taking a number of steps to ensure the halibut resource is protected and can rebuild. The commercial fishery has had its catch limit reduced by more than 40 per cent since 2006. These are difficult times for commercial halibut fishermen but they accept these conservation-based reductions in catch and have responded accordingly. The number of commercial vessels actively fishing has dropped to reduce pressure on the halibut resource, minimize the ecological footprint of the fishery and ensure the industry can remain financially viable and continue to contribute to the economy of Canada.
Sporer says this is a time for caution and conservation.
"Increasing the recreational catch is not the answer. It is time for the lodge and charter vessel sector to accept that they must share in the costs of conservation."For further information:
Chris Sporer, Manager, PHMA