Halibut allocation concerns a hot topic at Port Edward council

The District of Port Edward heard concerns from the sport fishing sector regarding halibut allocation, with the total allowable catch being used up as early as June based on the 88/12 split with the commercial sector, but how to address the issue was a point of contention among some councillors.

The District of Port Edward heard concerns from the sport fishing sector regarding halibut allocation, with the total allowable catch being used up as early as June based on the 88/12 split with the commercial sector, but how to address the issue was a point of contention among some councillors.

The BC Fishing Coalition is asking Ottawa to revisit the 88 per cent allocated to the commercial sector back in 1990 in light of the declining allowable annual catch being experienced. While it may have been in the tens of millions of fish when it was created, the sport sector now only gets 12 per cent of less than 10-million pounds, a number that could drop further.

But councillor Knut Bjorndal says getting additional allotment won’t be and can’t be as easy as having the government change the numbers from the 435 license holders that were given the 88 per cent even if it is unused and leased to someone else.

“You can’t just say ‘the quota you bought is being reduced and we’re not going to compensate you for it’. We can’t just confiscate people’s quotas,” he said, noting that the quotas are just as much people’s livelihoods as they would be for the sport sector and that lodges and charters are businesses just like the commercial sector.

“The increased quota you’re looking for has to come from the commercial sector, but you have to buy it back.”

That being said, Bjorndal acknowledged the flaw in having someone given an allocation for as long as they live.

“If you’re a logger and you retire, you’re done. You don’t have a hillside in perpetuity. It’s very strange that the government did that,” he said.

Both councillor Murray Kristoff and Mayor Dave MacDonald noted that part of the issue is grouping charter operators and lodges with sport fishermen is part of the dilemma when it comes to the 12 per cent

allocation.

“The way I see it is that the every day Joe should be seen different from those who make a living at it…In New Brunswick there are rivers that people bid on each year from the government, and I would hate to see something like that here,” said Mayor MacDonald.

“Every Canadian who buys a fishing license should be able to go out and catch a fish, otherwise we move toward privatizing the resource,” added Kristoff.