Fresh halibut caught on the North Coast. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

Halibut — the Wild West

The experimental fishing licence is a peculiar practice

How do you control wild fish?

Halibut quota — just like stocks — can be bought or sold through the experiemental fishing program created by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Recreational anglers can access up to 15 per cent of the annual total allowable catch, and 85 per cent is reserved for commercial quota.

When Fisheries and Oceans Canada closed public access to fish halibut on Sept. 6, it held out an olive branch to charter businesses, lodges and avid anglers who — for the first time in five years — were told they’re done for the season and the prized white fish is out of reach, unless … they apply for the experimental licence.

Wild halibut quota can be purchased from the commerical fishery, but DFO’s oversight stops there.

“The department doesn’t oversee the cost of acquirng the quota,” said Neil Davis, DFO director of resource management.

What else doesn’t the department oversee? Once halibut quota is purchased, who is there to make sure you are only catching that exact amount? It’s the honour system that’s recorded in a logbook.

Trying to control wild halibut has created a Wild West of fishing practices.

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