The current sharing formula, which allocates 88 per cent of the harvest to commercial fishermen and 12 per cent to recreational harvesters, has been in place since 2003. Since then there have been a number of attempts by representatives of each sector to develop an acceptable way to transfer allocation between them.
"The most recent round of discussions took place throughout 2010. I’m disappointed to report that those discussions have reached an impasse and stakeholders have been unable to reach a consensus. Because of this, a ministerial decision is required to move forward for the 2011 seas," said Minister Shea.
The Minister said that all fish management decisions are made to meet the following three priorities: conservation, sustainability of the fishery and economic viability.
It was with these in mind that she announced the following:
"The 2011 Pacific halibut recreational fishing season will open March 1st. Recreational anglers with a tidal license will be able to catch one halibut per day with two in possession.
"Our Government recognises the value of the recreational fishery to British Columbians and the economic opportunities it provides. Therefore, for the 2011 season only, we will undertake a trial to make available to interested recreational stakeholders experimental licenses that will allow them to lease quota from commercial harvesters. This will provide access to halibut beyond the limits of the standard recreational license, giving those who choose to participate greater stability for business planning purposes.
"As for the future, clearly it is in the best interests of all sectors to come to a long-term solution that recognises the important contribution each makes to British Columbia. To achieve this, I have asked my Parliamentary Secretary, Randy Kamp, Member of Parliament from Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, to work with my officials to develop options for my consideration prior to the start of the 2012 season.
- Conservation of the resource through enhanced monitoring of the recreational fishery, thereby keeping all halibut fisheries accountable for maintaining catches within the total allowable catch.
- Economic prosperity through predictable access for all users.
- Flexibility through an effective mechanism for transfers between the sectors.
I have long held the belief that those who participate in and depend on a fishery to make their living need to be able to provide input into how that fishery is managed. Ideally, that happens in a collaborative and constructive manner.
Many stakeholders from both sectors have clearly articulated their current positions, but I encourage continued dialogue about new approaches between interested parties and my officials. The sooner a permanent solution is found, the sooner British Columbians can put uncertainty behind them and look forward to a viable future for this fishery.