NO REALLY: Everybody wants a piece of half-baked halibut pie

Sports fishermen shouldn’t be surprised the status quo remains for this year’s halibut fishery

Today’s column is dedicated to halibut.

On second thought, fish are notoriously bad readers which isn’t surprising given their brains are generally smaller than the tip of my pinky.

Let me rephrase: Today’s column is dedicated to the halibut fishing-related battle. So, with my verbal fish bonker firmly in hand, let’s begin.

I think sports fishermen shouldn’t be surprised the status quo remains for this year’s halibut fishery.

Basically, beginning March 12, they can catch one halibut a day and be in legal possession of two fish.

They wanted more, of course, and who wouldn’t? Small halibut – generally in the 20- to 35-pound range are tastily referred to as “chickens.” That’s not not be confused with Chicken of the Sea, which is tuna.

But the sporties want more than the 12 per cent allocation they get from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The commercial fishermen get the rest and aren’t really interested in giving up any of their share. In fact, if the commercial fishermen want more, they have to buy quota from other licence holders. And that’s the root of the halibut allocation problem. Some people hold licences but don’t fish, and instead rely on working fishermen to buy it from them. Use it or lose it, I say. And so do many others.

These non-fishing licence holders used to head out on their vessels to catch halibut and other fish species, but some now rely on this licence as kind of retirement pension. Sorry, but that’s not what they were designed to do. Nor should they be.

As for the sporties, they’re lobbying the government for a bigger share and they partially succeeded. They’re still stuck with 12 per cent of the total catch, but they now have the option, just like the commercial guys, of buying more quota. I’m thinking the only people who can afford to buy quota would be fishing lodge owners. But for regular anglers, here’s what I don’t understand: If all they get is 12 per cent, why is it necessary to open the season so early for halibut?

During the town hall meeting here in January, many sporties expressed concern with fishing safety. Most halibut fishing occurs on the West Coast where weather and ocean conditions after often “ugly,” even during the summer.

Point #2, last year sporties over-fished their quota. That amount, more than 100,000 pounds, will be subtracted from this year’s allotment. So, if the season opened later, say mid-April or May 1, quota would be “saved” for when the weather is less volatile and it’s safer to go out fishing in a small boat.

Besides, the real power and deep pockets behind the lobby effort are the lodge owners. Put another way, visiting anglers aren’t staying in lodges during the winter and fall months, so what’s the point having halibut openings at those times of the year?

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