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VIDEO: Fishermen in Prince Rupert say new monitoring requirements are too costly

Fishermen from Prince Rupert and as far away as the Nass Valley claim they are being unfairly targeted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, claiming the DFO has a hidden agenda of ridding the coast of the commercial fishery.

The DFO is requiring a new monitoring regime aboard salmon fishing vessels that includes the purchase of a $300 log book to record bycatch and the spotting of whales, turtles and birds, as well as having to hire an on-board monitor service provider to track the vessel's activities. The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU) projects these new costs will equal out to $650 per fisherman, or 13 per cent of before-tax income, something it says fishermen simply cannot afford.

Making the situation even worse for the north coast fleet is that only the Skeena and Nass fishermen are being required to have at-sea monitors. The DFO claims the requirement is because the MSC eco-certification achieved by the fishery requires counting steelhead, but the UFAWU points out that the B.C. Minister of Environment Steve Thomson, whose Ministry is responsible for steelhead, is on record saying there is no conservation issue but rather an allocation issue.

"Fishermen are not objecting to monitoring for conservation and management purposes, they just cannot afford the cost of this expensive and redundant program. The local gillnet committee has worked with the DFO for the past four years to develop a program that would provide more accurate information at half the cost, but DFO prefers their expensive old methodology," said the UFAWU in a statement, pointing to the disparity in treatment of the commercial and sport fishing sectors.

"The recreational fishers are the beneficiaries of the commercial fishermen's release of coho, steelhead and spring salmon. The sports fleet does not have a comparable program, yet they will harvest similar numbers of salmon without any monitoring or logbooks and will bear no costs."

In a show of solidarity, Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem joined a group of commercial fishermen at a news conference on May 22 to raise concerns about the new monitoring requirements.

A representative from the DFO was not immediately available for comment.

Look for more on this story in the May 29 issue of the Prince Rupert Northern View.

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