Halibut issue is the proverbial elephant in the ro

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by Sushihunter, Jan 27, 2009.

  1. Sushihunter

    Sushihunter Active Member


    Halibut issue is the proverbial elephant in the room

    By Jeremy Maynard - Campbell River Mirror

    Published: January 27, 2009 5:00 PM

    Once again, the issue of halibut management has come to the boil.

    Despite all the issues that will exert some influence on management of the various salmon species this year for the west coast recreational fishery, everything pales in comparison as halibut have become the proverbial elephant in the room.

    I realize that halibut are infrequently caught in the Campbell River area but many anglers living here like to catch them not so far away.

    Even more importantly, considering the very real possibility that all commercial fisheries for fin and shellfish will be managed on a vessel quota basis in the future, how management of the recreational fishery fits with that construct is of critical importance from a policy perspective. If the precedent of the halibut inter-sectoral allocation framework is maintained and used with other species the recreational fishery is a train wreck waiting to happen.

    The immediate cause of the latest flare-up surrounding this issue is the recent determination by the International Pacific Halibut Commission that Canada’s 2009 TAC (total allowable catch) should be 7.63 million pounds.

    That sounds like a lot of fish but once various deductions are made and because the recreational fishery is capped at 12 per cent of the combined commercial and recreational harvest, in theory the recreational TAC will be 918,000 pounds.

    The problem is that even with additional restrictions beyond the usual, in 2008, anglers caught 1.5 million pounds of halibut, itself a lesser amount than harvested in prior years. In plain language, if DFO maintains the present allocation policy in 2009 it will have a crippling effect on the recreational fishery and its infrastructure along the outer B.C. coast, at a time when such an artificial constraint on its socio-economic potential is the last thing needed.

    It should be emphasized that there is not a conservation issue with halibut, they are a well-managed species that like all other wild animals undergo variations in abundance as they respond to the environment in which they live. The very real dilemma the recreational fishery finds itself in was political in the making and it will require political will to reverse a bad policy decision.

    The unworkable nature of the present allocation policy that requires the recreational sector to acquire additional quota beyond the 12 per cent poundage cap by a “market-based mechanism” was clearly demonstrated last year.

    In 2008 DFO shortened the recreational halibut season by three months and lowered bag and possession limits, even so the fishery exceeded its 12 per cent poundage cap by 300,000 pounds.

    Although money was available to lease quota, agents acting on behalf of the recreational fishery were unable to acquire a sufficient amount even as, for reasons of their own, the commercial quota holders left approximately 500,000 pounds of fish uncaught in the water at the close of their season.

    If this sounds like something from the Alice-in-Wonderland School of Management you’re correct, brought to you by the federal government. The situation is even harder to understand given that the economic value of recreational caught halibut is several times greater than that harvested in the commercial fishery.

    DFO has a “Best Use” policy defined as the “determination of the particular uses of a fisheries resource that will generate the greatest possible public good or best serve the interests of all Canadians.” It is well past time that DFO managed the recreational halibut fishery in accordance with this policy.

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    Jim's Fishing Charters
  2. tubber

    tubber Well-Known Member

    Be careful what you wish for. The DFO uses this same policy to make it illegal to sportfish lobsters in PEI if I'm not mistaken. It all depends on who is interpreting the policy and to which user group his or her bias leans. (plus the new minister is from PEI.)

    In other words, it is as equally plausible that the current allocation ratio could become less favourable to sportfishers as more favourable.

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