While the front-page coverage (CR Mirror, 23/02) of the demonstration in front of MP John Duncan’s office in Courtenay by anglers protesting the continuation of the halibut allocation policy was most welcome, the same cannot be said about the column by Paul Rudan on the same issue.
Other than our agreement that commercial halibut quota owners should fish it or lose it, the rest of his opinion piece was consistent with the headline – “half baked.”
Firstly, the correct facts – the recreational halibut season opens March 1 not March 12 and anglers cannot buy quota, rather they will have to lease it from commercial fishermen. More importantly it is apparent that, like John Duncan, Mr. Rudan fundamentally misunderstands the issue.
If a) halibut are a common property fisheries resource, as Minister Shea keeps repeating and b) in the absence of a conservation concern for these prized fish – if there was then there wouldn’t be a 7.65 million pound total allowable catch in 2011 – and c) in the absence of any demonstrated greater economic benefit to Canada derived from allocating 88 per cent of the TAC to the commercial sector, why is this policy continued?
Do not for a moment believe that “the real power and deep pockets behind the lobby effort are the lodge owners”. Organizations like the BC Wildlife Federation are central to the protest, support for which is fuelled by the deep-seated anger of its membership about this allocation policy that favours a few at the expense of the overwhelming majority of Canadians.
People choose to live in coastal communities for many reasons, not least of which is lifestyle and, for many, the recreational fishing opportunities available to them as a result of proximity to the sea. While it is true that the majority of the recreational halibut catch occurs in the summer months, the ocean is not always rough at other times of the year and the customary recreational halibut season was Feb. 1 to Dec. 31. Now the predictable opportunity to catch a fresh halibut for the dinner table throughout most of the year has been removed by privatizing 88 per cent of the halibut resource.
As well, along with the impact on recreational halibut opportunity of this policy is the precedent setting nature of it. I hope never to read some “half-baked” rationale by Mr. Rudan as to why recreational fishermen can no longer go after chinook salmon or prawns or crabs in the winter when the weather and prudent fisheries management allows.