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Bachrach continues call for restrictions on foreign commercial fishing licences affecting Northcoast

Liberals say commercial fishing system is “a modern-day feudal system.”
Skeen Bulkey Valley MP Taylor Bachrach is calling on the Feds to end foreign purchases of commercial fishing licences. A fishing vessel is unloaded near the ferry terminal in Prince Rupert on June 25, 2021. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

NDP critics continue to call on the Liberal government to end the transfer of commercial fishing licences to powerful foreign fishers, a press release announced on April 7.

Skeena Bulkley Valley MP and deputy critic Taylor Bachrach highlighted the importance of a ban to protect wild salmon, coastal communities and the livelihoods of local workers in a recent letter to the Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray, which was sent jointly from NDP critic Lisa Marie Barron.

“There is a clear problem here. We should be prioritizing the wellbeing of wild salmon and coastal communities, not allowing our fisheries to be sold to foreign corporations,” Bachrach stated in the media release.

Barron explained as it stands, there is no cap on foreign ownership of commercial licences.

“… Big international corporations can swoop in and take business from local B.C. fishers. Canadian-owned fishing operations, harvesters and their families are in jeopardy because the Liberals refuse to stand up to rich CEOs.”

“The well-being of wild Pacific salmon is vital to our communities. People rely on wild salmon to feed their families and earn their livelihoods,” Barron said.

“Canadian-owned fishing operations, harvesters and their families are in jeopardy because the Liberals refuse to stand up to rich CEOs,” the fisheries minister said.

In 2019, the Committee on Fisheries and Oceans put forward 20 recommendations to reform the way commercial fishing licences and quotas are distributed in B.C.

The aim was to address concerns of monopolization – including limiting ownership by foreign investors who may have never stepped on a fishing boat.

Liberal MP Ken Hardie previously described the current commercial fishing system in B.C. as “a modern-day feudal system.”

Central to the discussion is the Individual Transferrable Quota System (ITQ), which is a transferable quota of fish, meaning that the owner can either fill the quota by fishing or sell the quota to someone else.

Only Canadian citizens or permanent residents can have fishing licences, but foreign companies are allowed to buy and sell ITQs without government interference. It turns out that buying and selling ITQs is very profitable.

In 2015, for example, halibut ITQs were leased out for $7-9/lb when the actual price of the fish was $8.25-9.50/lb. This means that owners took over 85 per cent of the total value, leaving fishermen with incredibly small profits.

The United States and China are two of the larger purchasers of ITQs. For example, Pacific Seafood, one of the largest seafood companies in North America, has purchased many Canadian ITQs.

Also central to the issue is a declining population of salmon thanks to compounding problems such as climate change and habitat loss, according to the 2019 report State of Canadian Pacific Salmon.

The Liberal government indicated last June that a study was conducted on the Licence and Quota Registry proposal, but there has been little to no movement since then.

“The Liberals and Conservatives have done nothing to stop this sell-off, but New Democrats will keep fighting for our coastal communities, workers, and the next generation of Canadian fish harvesters. We won’t stop until there is a full ban on the transfers of fishing licenses to foreign corporations,” Bachrach stated.

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