On August 22 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced that the recreational Halibut fishery will be closing at 11:59 p.m. on September 5, and the local director of the BC Wildlife Federation says he is “horrified” by the news.
According to DFO, the closure comes because the recreational fishery has met its quota and the only way for recreational fishermen to continue fishing Halibut is if they participated in an experimental recreational fishery announced by the DFO in February that allows recreational fishermen to lease quota from the commercial fishery. Last year the recreational fishery wasn’t closed until 11:59 p.m. on October 18. The commercial fishery, meanwhile, will be able to continue fishing Halibut this year until November 18.
“There are fishing charters booked right through September so this is going to be disastrous for Prince Rupert. It’s also going to force charter operators to focus more on groundfish when we’ve been trying to get them to focus on Halibut because the groundfish take longer to grow,” said Ken Franzen.
“This is a rip-off of the Canadian public. It shows this is just big business quota ownership and it is turning Halibut quota into a commodity to be traded.”
Manager of the Pacific Halibut Management Association Chris Sporer says the closure is the right decision to make given the circumstances.
“Such decisions can be difficult and no one wants to see the recreational fishery closed, but everyone must bear the costs of conservation,” he said, noting there is a way for people .
“We support what DFO is doing.”
And with the closure in effect, Sporer says the DFO should continue examining ways to make the recreational fishery pay for additional through leasing, similar to what is done with the current commercial quota.
“Canada is in a period of low halibut abundance. That affects everyone…Increasing the recreational catch is not the answer. It is time for the lodge and charter vessel sector to accept that they must share in the costs of conservation,” he said.
And while recreational fishermen won’t be harvesting Halibut after September 6, Franzen said the push to increase the Halibut quota for recreational fishermen is far from over.
“We will be battling the DFO again this winter about the quota,” he said.
“If they want bad publicity, this is how to get it.”
The DFO says the fishing charter and lodge sector account for 60 to 70 per cent of the recreational Halibut harvest, compared to 50 per cent a decade ago.