Statement by John Duncan, M.P., on the Halibut Allocation
January 29, 2009
On January 16, 2009 I met with Graeme Bull in Port Hardy to discuss halibut allocation on the BC Coast. Since that time Mr. Bull has circulated notes that give a highly inaccurate account of our discussion and describes my position on this issue in a way that is simply not true.
In our meeting Mr. Bull appeared to agree with my position that there is a large black market of halibut on the BC coast, that we undervalue our resource and that changing recreational catch limits mid-season is very problematic for the recreational fishing sector. The link that Mr. Bull has drawn between the lack of our ability to track the black market catch and the accountability of the recreational fishery is his alone – I made no such inference and to say that I did is a gross misrepresentation of my position.
I made it clear during our discussion that I have long been a strong advocate for Fishing Lodges, for the recreational fishery, for the Salmonid Enhancement Program, for commercial harvesting and for sustainable aquaculture. I represent all the members of my riding, and this includes all of the people who use the fisheries resource. As such my advocacy must balance conservation with the needs of recreational, commercial, social and ceremonial users.
I did express to Mr. Bull my concern that my desire to serve all of my constituents might be interpreted by him as showing that I am “no friend of the recreational fishery”, but the fact is that such an interpretation is not true. I am a recreational fisherman myself, and I understand the need to provide balanced policies.
The groundfishery in BC has adopted a market-based quota arrangement and fishing activity is camera monitored and audited. It is widely recognized as one of the most accountable and sustainable commercial ocean fisheries in the world. The point I made repeatedly during my conversation with Mr. Bull is that any suggestion for change to the Halibut Allocation Policy must allow for the integrity of this system to be maintained if it is to move forward.
I know how difficult and emotional the issue of the Halibut Allocation Policy can be for all of the users of this limited resource, but confrontational and entrenched positions do not help any of us. The commercial sector faced many major hurdles and objections within their diversified industry, but by working together with a spirit of openness they eventually arrived at a market based system that works. I would encourage all sectors of the groundfishery to work in the same spirit to arrive at a solution that will serve everyone.
I made a commitment to Mr. Bull that I would take from the meeting a need to advocate for the benefit of the recreational fishery that there be no mid-season changes to catch limits. I have done this wholeheartedly because I understand how much businesses dependent on a predictable fishing opportunity and because I believe it is the right thing to do.
John Duncan, M.P.
Vancouver Island North