A Disappointing Decision for the Fish

VANCOUVER, Feb. 17, 2012 /CNW/ - "Allocating fisheries resources based on who can lobby the hardest is not in the best interests of the fish," said Pacific Halibut Management Association manager Chris Sporer following Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield's decision to increase the recreational sector's allocation of Pacific halibut by 25%.

Stable allocations between user groups are a fundamental tenet of sound fisheries management.  A stable allocation framework creates the proper incentive for all participants to act responsibly and invest in conservation and the long term health of the resource.

More than eight years ago, following a three year process that included facilitation and the retention of an independent allocation advisor, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) implemented a policy that allocated the recreational sector 12% of the Canadian catch of Pacific halibut -- a share one third more than the sector's actual historical catch to allow for "growth". Since its implementation, four separate federal fisheries ministers have examined the facts and supported the halibut allocation policy.

DFO also made available a market mechanism that would permit the transfer of additional allocation to the recreational fishery provided increased catch reporting requirements were met.  Lodge and charter vessel interests instead lobbied politicians to re-allocate halibut from the commercial to the recreational fishery so their businesses could benefit.

Canada's Pacific commercial halibut fishery was the first BC fishery to receive Marine Stewardship Council certification and NGOs refer to it as one of the best monitored fisheries in the world.  The fishery has 100% at-sea monitoring and dockside validation programs in place, fishermen are fully accountable for all catch, both retained and released, and every single halibut landed is tagged in the tail with a unique serial number.  In contrast, the recreational fishery is poorly monitored and has overharvested in five of the last six years.

"Re-allocating fish from the well monitored fishery to a poorly monitored one undermines conservation efforts and responsible fisheries management," Sporer noted.  This is particularly true given Canada is in a period of low halibut abundance and scientifically-determined catch limits remain low.  Now more than ever is a time for caution.

"Canada, more than most countries, should know that political pressure is no way to manage a fishery."

The Pacific Halibut Management Association is an organization representing commercial halibut fishermen on Canada's Pacific coast.

SOURCE Pacific Halibut Management Association

For further information:

Contact:   Chris Sporer, 604.523.1528;  phmana@telus.net

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Pacific Halibut Management Association

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