Ladies and gentlemen of the committee, thank you very much. I think you are addressing a very important topic for west coast Canada and across Canada. I said in the text that I provided to you that I think you're talking about something that we consider “fabric of life” on the west coast, and I really mean that. We have a very substantial following, and I think you'll see right away that it's economic, social, and cultural. It's also fair to say that this is a very complicated fishery to manage; that it gives us opportunities and challenges as well.
My experience is very much limited to B.C. and to mostly tidal waters. Mr. Martin is much more capable of talking about the freshwater recreational fishery. I drew your attention to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and provided a web link to it. I provided in the material submitted an excellent summary report of the economic value of the recreational fishery. That was provided in 2013.
I also highlighted in my text a number of statements, which the Pacific Salmon Foundation strongly endorses, provided to you by Mr. Greg Farrant with the Ontario hunting and angling federation. In that text, he makes a number of excellent points that we would certainly want you to keep in mind. I won't read them but have just noted them in my text.
I want to emphasize one point he made, on the promotion of recreational fishing as an investment in our future. I think this is a very important point—difficult to quantify, but I think one of the most important things we can do for our communities.
He also identified that, like any industry, recreational fishing requires ongoing investment, support, and promotion for achieving its potential. This is the main point that was addressed by Dr. Gerry Kristianson and Mr. Owen Bird on March 31 as well. They have provided the minister with a document called the “Recreational Fisheries Vision Implementation Initiative”. That is fundamentally what it's about: how we better regulate and manage the true benefits from the recreational fishery in western Canada.
I won't read my background. I provided it to you only so that you know where my perspective is coming from. I want to emphasize that, when we talk about the recreational fishery in B.C., we're talking about many fisheries—probably hundreds—because of the diversity of different species and the habitats that they use.
Probably the best documented evidence I can give you about the economic value of the fisheries is provided by the provincial government. They have a series of reports called “British Columbia's Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector”. It's a financial assessment. They identify four sectors: the commercial fishery, the aquaculture sector, processing of fish, and then the recreational fishery.
The numbers provided in the document for recreational fishing include those for freshwater and tidal fisheries. It's an excellent document. It gives you a lot of detail on how they define the various sectors and gives you three metrics of value to compare the sectors and two time periods. They give you the GDP, or really a measure of the net economic value to the economy; they give you employment; and then the give you direct values on expenditures.
I'm not going to go through the details; you can see them in the document. I think it's a very clear indication of the economic value and significance of the fishery in British Columbia. It really does stand out currently as the leading economic driver.
I place two other issues as equally important, though. One is the contribution that the anglers and angling communities provide to conservation in Canada and also to the social and educational value of the fishery. In B.C., the most direct indication of contribution to conservation is the salmon stamp. In tidal waters, anyone wishing to retain a Pacific salmon must also buy a stamp with their licence. It's not the licence; it's “in addition to”. At this time, it costs only six dollars, but we have between 225,000 and 250,000 people who buy it annually. You can simply do the math to indicate that it generates a significant amount of money. All of that money, because of a decision by the current government in March 2013, is returned to B.C. through the Pacific Salmon Foundation so that we can invest it in work through communities to restore salmon habitat, manage small hatcheries, and do community planning and education.
At the bottom of page 5 in my text, I give you the recent five-year table of the actual money from the stamp and the money that goes out in grants, which is the stamp plus my foundation's donations that we contribute to the communities. The total value is the value of the entire project conducted, including community values, which have to at least match. I'll read you the values from the top of page 6, because they are the strongest indication of the contribution I can give you. Since 1989, when the stamps started, through 2014, the Salmon Foundation has managed $9.2 million in stamp revenues, which has been translated into a total project value of $90.2 million invested in salmon habitat and restoration.
A 10:1 ratio on investments is not a bad deal. It really does show the the power of community and large numbers. We use that money in habitat, small hatcheries, and then in education, outreach, and community planning. Those are the six categories where we invest money.
The other thing I want to emphasize is that it's not just money that the anglers contribute. Many of them participate in these programs and do hands-on conservation.
The other point I'd like to make is that we definitely support the current recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. We see it as complementary to the foundation because you have a large upper value of $250,000 per project. Very few of our projects ever get to that size because communities must match the money. Now, with a larger source of funds like that, we can take on bigger programs using networks or partnerships programs. A particularly good example is the restoration of estuaries in the Strait of Georgia that are very commonly neglected.
Let me move on to the social value. I want to emphasize the educational element. As we look at licensing and stamp sales over a long period of time, there's no question that there is a slow, steady decline. We interpret this to be a lack of recruitment of younger fishers or new fishers into the program. I think that an educational program is an important complement to the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program now, which focuses on habitat. We have to invest in the youth and new fishers to support our future. We emphasize that in the foundation. I've given you a couple of examples where we have things like family days where you don't need a licence to go fishing. The organizations will provide rods and reels, and teach people how to fish. A family can get together and do that for a weekend. There are 50 communities in B.C. that do this now.
Let me go on to the issues and opportunities, because the difficulty with the recreational fishery is its scale. It's made of hundreds of thousands of people, with millions of boat days of effort, and it's a huge challenge to regulate a fishery such as this. I think this is the emphasis that you saw from Mr. Kristianson and Mr. Bird. I want to emphasize that the Salmon Foundation fully endorses their implementation initiative. It does have strong merit, and particularly money into catch reporting and stock assessment. They have initiated important programs as well. There are two examples I gave you: certified tidal anglers, which is about public safety when you employ a charter fisher, and the other is a fisher app. This is using smart phone technology to improve our ability to get messages out to anglers and for anglers' safety in terms of where they are and weather communications, and eventually into catch reporting.
The other thing is opportunity. I want to point out that the recreational conservation stamp has been $6 since 1996. With the current numbers of people, if we simply adjusted that for the cost of living, which we have in all of our annual statistics, it would be $9.80 or essentially $10 per stamp in current value. That extra $4 would be another million dollars to invest into the habitat community, which we could match with the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships programs. It's small steps like that because of the huge numbers that really provide the power of that recreational opportunity.
I wanted to endorse that one of the things the Salmon Foundation would certainly recommend is a continuation of the national recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program. We do see it as complementary. I think there are five submissions that we made this year for it and they all involved restoration of the Strait of Georgia estuaries.
I want to finish by making a point that I started with and say that the recreational fishery is a part of the fabric of life on the west coast. We believe that so strongly in the Pacific Salmon Foundation that we have our largest project ever directed at restoring the recreational fishery in the Strait of Georgia. This is the Salish Sea marine survival program.
I can't go into the details of it. I gave you the website. All the information is there before you. The objective is to understand what happened to salmon production and how to restore it, because the Strait of Georgia alone used to support the most valuable recreational fishery in Canada, but that all stopped in two years in the mid-1990s, and we don't know why yet.
We are taking it on because we think that's the most important project we could undertake in B.C.
I simply want to say thank you again for taking this on. The Pacific Salmon Foundation and the recreational sector have worked closely together since the foundation began in 1989, and we think that you have taken on a really important component of resource management and use in Canada and for all Canadians. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I certainly will focus from a B.C. perspective and echo the words of Dr. Riddell, in terms of the core values of fish habitat and fisheries to the people of B.C. from an economic, social, and cultural perspective.
As a bit of background, I represent the B.C. Wildlife Federation, a non-profit, non-partisan conservation organization. We have 46,000 members in over a hundred clubs distributed throughout British Columbia, and our members contribute over 300,000 hours annually to fish and wildlife stewardship.
I will say a couple of words about myself. I am a fisheries biologist by training. I am a member of the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel. I am also a member of the provincial round table on the environment and the economy, and I am on the board of directors of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the coastal centre for aquatic health. I do have a background in fisheries, but as Dr. Riddell said, it's primarily focused on the freshwater side.
As an organization, the B.C. Wildlife Federation's goals are to promote British Columbia's use and enjoyment of fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. Certainly the sustainability of the resource and the sustainability of the opportunities afforded to the recreational fisheries are a fundamental interest of our members. Our priorities are to increase investment in fish, wildlife, and habitat management in the province; increase opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation; and increase influence through partnerships and collaboration with government, first nations, stakeholders, and other organizations. We see collaboration with federal agencies, provincial agencies, and non-profit organizations, including the Pacific Salmon Foundation and others, as being essential to moving forward in terms of both long-term sustainability of the resource and maintaining opportunities for recreational fishing.
In terms of the importance of recreational fishing, 400,000 anglers fished 3.8 million rod days, both in fresh water and salt water. Anglers contribute more money to our economy than the total capture fisheries—$936 million in expenditures and $326 million in GDP—and create 8400 jobs in B.C., many in rural and small coastal communities. Of that, 56% is driven by the saltwater or tidal fishery, and 44% is contributed through freshwater.
In terms of conservation, recreational anglers contribute $3.2 million from fresh water through the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, and approximately $1.4 million through tidal licence conservation stamps. Not to put too fine a point on it, non-tidal anglers—and there are approximately the same number of anglers—contribute twice the amount of money to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. As an organization of participants, we have an opportunity, I think, as Dr. Riddell has pointed out, to increase the contribution through the conservation stamps, and our members are already doing that with the contributions through the surcharges on freshwater licences.
There is an opportunity to increase investments, and what I am saying from an organization that represents hunters and anglers is that there is the appetite, desire, and need to invest more in recreational fishing in B.C. We think there is a tremendous opportunity. If your committee would take leadership on this, it would hopefully be able to accelerate that agenda federally.
In terms of angler profiles, basically there are 338,000 freshwater anglers and 228,000 saltwater anglers.
What do we catch? In freshwater we catch about 9 million fish per year, of which we keep about 2 million. In saltwater we catch about 3.2 million fish and keep about 1.6 million.
I think we need to increase investment in program priorities. I think those areas should be fisheries catch monitoring; hatchery transformation and modernization; and science, research, and development in projects such as the Salish Sea. We also think it is a priority to extend the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program.
What level of investment should occur? The Province of B.C. recently committed all the licensing money to go into recreational fisheries management through the freshwater fisheries program. I think a similar investment of investing all the tidal water licence revenue in fisheries catch monitoring; hatchery transformation and modernization; and science, research, and development, to the tune of $5 million a year, would provide some symmetry in terms of the approach both in terms of licence revenue and its application federally and provincially, and the investment of surcharge and stamp money for habitat-related activities.
So investment for management functions certainly has been reduced and there is a great need for stock assessment and harvest monitoring, species and ecosystem management, research and development, licencing systems, data management and analysis, public consultation and communication, as well as marketing and education.
What would this investment mean? I think certainly it will increase recreational participation and angler opportunity. As Brian said, increasing participation will result in healthier and more active families, increased stewardship and protection; increased leverage for conservation; more licence revenue; more jobs; a healthier rural and coastal economy; and a balanced, solution-based approach to recreational fisheries development.
The key outcomes that we're trying to achieve as an organization include, first of all, and fundamentally, sustainability of the resource through the conservation programs and also development of opportunities for recreational fisheries for the key social, economic, and cultural objectives. I think we need to collaborate nationally, provincially, and locally, and I think the investment is due. We need to implement, evaluate, and communicate our successes. As we've seen through the fisheries partnership program, there is a large amount of capacity out there waiting to be energized and waiting for an investment back both to the resource and to recreational fisheries.
Thank you very much.
Maybe just two quick points.
First, I'd like to emphatically support what Al just said about prevention. We talk very glibly about restoration, but really, effective restoration is costly and not high probability. We always tend to lose something. We have to be very much aware of that.
Second, I think the only thing I'd really add to what Al said is that NGO groups, private organizations, and universities can step in to a certain degree, and I really would call this a matter of scale. When you get a continuous barrage of development proposals, things like pipelines or major port developments, these are things that public groups would really struggle to deal with, and I don't mean just being vocally opposed to them. If you really have it coming and you have to do restoration and manage the impact, there is a certain scale where you simply have to have government leadership because they have the experts and the resources.
Even with the Salish Sea initiative that we're undertaking, we have 47 organizations involved in a network that's implementing this program, but the real leadership is in the expertise of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, because of their laboratories and their staff. We simply can't do things independently of them because of their capacity. So there is a certain issue where you can depend on community organizations, and certainly, Ducks Unlimited would come into this sort of thing, Trout Unlimited in other areas, but there is a scale where you still need government assistance.
Nashville has its country and western stars and LA.A. has its actors, and in British Columbia we have our B.C. Wildlife Federation and our Pacific Salmon Foundation. We're proud of you and we're proud that B.C. is a place where we venerate our salmon and our fisheries and our outdoors.
When you throw around these numbers, gentlemen—about 30,000 to 40,000 volunteers at the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and I think you said 43,000, Al—it's truly astounding. I'll never cease to be as amused as I was when the fisheries minister came out——heard those numbers, and then walked into the Coho Festival in west Vancouver and saw thousands of people living the whole saga of salmon and paying tribute to our environment and outdoors. She really got it.
So thank you for the things that you do.
When we look at the genesis of the recreational fisheries program, what the government wanted to see was certainly a restoration of habitat, but also the inspiration of people to take to Canada's outdoors, to help support our habitat restoration and the things that we're doing. The things that you're talking about, a 10:1 investment, for instance...that's why our government wanted to restore the salmon stamp revenues to the PSF. It's happened, and we're very pleased at those results.
Our committee has done some things that I think respond to what you just said this morning. We did a study on salmon aquaculture that culminated a couple of years ago , and one of the recommendations was that we create a closed containment salmon aquaculture centre of excellence, and some of us are still working on that. We are encouraging our government to pursue this. That was a unanimous report by our committee.
In B.C. we've seen the fisheries minister come several times; you've hosted her. We have a great parliamentary secretary who is one of the longest serving parliamentary secretaries in any department, who knows the area inside out. And many special projects have been undertaken in the last few years.
Dr. Riddell, as to the Salish Sea marine survival program, I support it. I know that the B.C. government caucus supports it. We think this could be really great for the future of B.C. salmon.
As one of those who called upon the government to do something that generated the Cohen commission, I would just like to say that the government has said it uses the Cohen report to inform its decisions, and I hold our government to account on that. On the things we do in fisheries and the environment, I expect the government to take the Cohen report seriously. I do, and many British Columbians who participated in that commission do as well.
Let me ask you this question. Dr. Riddell. It's astounding—30,000 to 40,000 volunteers. Can you tell us what are some of the best practices that the foundation has developed to generate that kind of impact in the province of British Columbia? They attract all those volunteers.
That's the yin and the yang. It really depends on whom you talk to.
The only time the PSF has ever really depended on government money was for a major five-year program called the Fraser salmon watershed initiative. It followed from the federal government's green plan in the 1990s. The Fraser, of course, is our most important salmonid watershed. It's one-third of the province of B.C.
There was money driven by what's called the B.C. Living Rivers Trust Fund—I guess it was $22 million—established in 2006. We used that money to leverage $5 million of federal money and $5 million of in-kind labour for a five-year program, and it ran from 2007 to 2012, by the time we finished. That's the only time we used a directed fund like that.
The difficulty with it, of course, is that it doesn't encapsulate all of the people of British Columbia. There were large areas that felt they weren't getting attention. We had to be very careful to direct other moneys to balance that spending in other areas.
Money is tighter now, and I think we've matured as a foundation. We have the community program, we have science programs, we have educational programs. We have found that we've been able to generate enough money from corporations and individuals that we haven't had to rely on government.
Now, for the Salish Sea marine survival program, we have a request in for the final $2 million. This is where I say it's the yin and yang. You talk to some people, and they don't want to give you money if government is giving you money. Other people don't want to give you money unless government is involved, to show that there's an interest. The way people see federal money very much depends on whom you're talking to and what the issue is.
Overall, right now we include the stamp money as a federal contribution in our cost accounting. Many people don't see it that way; they see it more as money from people fishing on the west coast being returned. We don't depend on government funds at all right now, but if we get the money today with the federal budget, we will have raised $10 million in two years to complete the Salish Sea initiative in Canada. That's going to be a major step forward.
Absolutely, it's a very wide range. In the beginning, the logo of the salmon foundation rather captures it: bring them back, stream by stream.
These were very much local community organizations that had salmon in local streams. These streams required habitat restoration. You have to get rid of the shopping carts and the tires and whatever is there, so they would go in and do these stream clean-ups.
We've now evolved really beyond that. We're now looking at habitat restoration. For a long time, people used to take woody debris out of streams. It turns out that this was a really bad idea. It just makes a stream into a straight chute, so it's more like a stream drain. You have to restructure streams, and we look for recreating what they call riffles and pools.
All of this work is done under the technical guidance of the department or what we call registered professional biologists. They do a wide variety of small stream activity. We're now branching out more into the estuary work and to larger river systems. In many of these cases, you have to work with registered biologists, because it becomes more dangerous in larger systems.
These programs are evolving, and that's why the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program has come at an opportune time for us to build on. They also do educational programs. They have their own programs whereby they go into schools, and they do a lot of enhancement.
The community enhancement program started with DFO's salmonid enhancement program in the early 1980s. Many of our community organizations now manage small community hatcheries. These are not our major hatchery production systems; these are small ones that would put out the tens of thousands of Chinook, coho, and chum salmon. Small hatcheries are the second biggest draw on our community salmon moneys.
Then we do stream enhancement restoration by opening up side channels that have become isolated from the flow. If you reconnect it, you immediately get benefits of fish production.
They build on their own partnerships. We have other organizations in the province, such as the B.C. Conservation Foundation, a very professional group that works in water management, now building small dams in some of the coastal lakes so that we can address climate change in the future.
So there are areas with a wide diversity of activities that these people get into. They're very creative.
Just to correct my friend, Mr. MacAulay, the habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act are still there, and I recommend that he look at section 35.
Regarding the Cohen commission, which has been brought up a few times, Cohen's mandate ended in 2009. Funnily enough, the sockeye runs in Fraser of 2010 and 2014 were the highest in history. I found that very interesting.
A study done out of Cornell University not that long ago looked at the conservation efforts of the hunting community. I have the honour of chairing the Conservative Hunting and Angling Caucus, and I deal with hunters and anglers across the country. Their conservation passion never ceases to amaze me. This particular study from Cornell talked about hunters—and it applies to anglers as well—as “conservation superstars” who get little credit for what they do, but it's incalculable in terms of the contribution to society.
I had the honour last summer of visiting the Oyster River enhancement project and saw, Dr. Riddell, exactly what you were talking about in the very gentle environmental enhancement that went on to produce and protect that salmon run. It was extremely impressive.
Dr. Riddell, I'd like to ask you specifically, what can we do to enhance Pacific salmon stocks? I know that as biologists one of our first responses is “more research”, and I can certainly accept that, but in terms of actual, active projects, what can we do to enhance Pacific salmon stocks?
Well, we're doing a lot, as you hopefully have heard. As for where we can do more, there's an unlimited amount of work we could do in habitat, and we really do have to scale that over time because there are certain capacities.
One of the big areas that I think we're finding in terms of restoration of production is in the estuaries. On the west coast, we have one real model of success here with the Campbell River, which used to be a highly industrialized estuary. But if you were to see it now—and I think there are videos of it—you would see that it really is a natural-looking estuary that still has development around it but is greatly improved. Unfortunately, we have many examples of these.
We're also finding that in terms of big changes in production you need to really identify the stocks that are contributing significantly. What are the big producers? A lot of these tend to be in the Fraser River. The lower Fraser is certainly an area of great concern on the west coast because of future development there. A lot of people are very concerned about what we are going to be able to do to maintain capacity in the lower Fraser River.
I think we also have to keep in mind that one of the things we are losing is the stock assessment base, and we really do need to understand what populations are doing well or what are not, so you can tease out why. I have a great example of that. On Saturday, I was working with an angling group called the Avid Anglers, in the Strait of Georgia. They gave us the results of DNA analyses from catch in the Strait of Georgia.
It turns out that the majority of the fish they sampled last summer came from an area where we do almost nothing. It's natural habitat. It's the whole mainland coast around Powell River, Sechelt, and up into Johnstone Strait. It was so different from anything I'd seen that I really questioned them on how they could get that, but I think what it's telling us about is the power of natural habitat. We have to maintain and get the diversity of fish into the habitat. So that that means, really, that we have to know the abundance, and we have to regulate the fisheries, which the department has done for years. These animals have the capacity to come back, but the common factor in all of these is that they have to change from fresh water to salt water through estuaries.
Well, being specific differs with every single estuary you turn to—
Mr. Robert Sopuck: Fair enough.
Dr. Brian Riddell: —but I'll tell you exactly what we're doing.
One of our main focuses on this sort of thing is the Cowichan estuary. What commonly happens in estuaries is that to get to deeper water we build causeways, or a port, or a mill or something. You can't fracture estuaries and maintain their productivity, because it's all about the connection of the flow from the fresh to the salt, the flats that contain the eelgrass, and then into the deeper water with the kelp. When you break that down and increase the silt load in the rivers, what has happened is that we've lost many of our eelgrass beds. We have about 40 community groups in the Strait of Georgia alone working to see if they can actively restore eelgrass.
In other areas, and in the Cowichan in particular, this year for the first time we got agreement to really open up one of these causeways, put in a bridge, and reconnect the entire estuary so that it now can flow naturally. It's still not natural because it still has the impediments, but there's a much greater flow. We have to look at the natural dynamics of these habitats when we're talking about estuaries.
The other thing we're really focused on is avoiding things like log-booming during smolt migration. In the Cowichan we have a very big problem, where seals use log-booming and prey directly on smolts going to sea. A very obvious response, if we can demonstrate the level of mortality, is to work with that one mill that's left and ask them to dryland sort for two months, not all year, but two months.
This could make a world of difference in production. It also will reduce the bark deposit on the bottom. In some estuaries, that has been there for 100 years, and we have a huge problem. We don't believe that you should even touch it. We think you should cap it, put rock on top, put the sand down, try to contain it, and then let the eelgrass restore itself.
For some of these estuaries, these are big issues.
As mentioned, my name is Chris Sporer. I'm executive manager of the Pacific Halibut Management Association of B.C., an organization representing commercial halibut vessel owners on Canada's Pacific coast. We're pleased to be able to make a presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans as part of its study on recreational fishing in Canada.
We're here to provide the perspective of the commercial fishery, in particular the commercial halibut fishery, because considering recreational fishing, at least on the Pacific coast, cannot be done without looking at the broader context that includes the commercial fisheries and how they provide food to Canada and the world. We are concerned that without understanding the broader context, the committee could come up with a report that is incomplete and unfair to the commercial fisheries and to the people on fishing vessels—the people who fish for food and the families they support.
PHMA would like to provide some background information about the commercial and recreational fisheries on Canada’s Pacific coast and then use our fishery to help illustrate the relationship between the two fisheries and how allocation disputes can be resolved. Given that Pacific halibut and most commercially harvested species on Canada’s west coast are caught in tidal waters, our comments are focused on the tidal water recreational fishery.
As mentioned, commercial fisheries are about providing food to Canada and the world. In fact, commercial fishing is the only way most Canadians can access fishery resources for food. It's the public fishery. There are two components to the commercial fishing industry, fish harvesting and seafood processing, but one part cannot exist without the other.
In contrast, recreational fishing is a leisure activity that, at least for the tidal water fishery on Canada's Pacific coast, is undertaken by a small number of Canadians whose numbers have declined in absolute terms and as a percentage of the population over the past 20 years. The recreational fishery is comprised of two sectors. There's the private fishery, where individual recreational harvesters fish on their own, without the services of a guide. Then there is the fishing lodge and charter vessel sector, or the commercial recreational sector as it's sometimes referred to. These are businesses that, like the commercial fishery, profit from the harvest of various fish species. The fishing lodge and charter vessel sector can account for a significant portion of the total recreational harvest of a fish species, 60% in the case of Pacific halibut.
Finding common metrics for measuring the economic contribution of the commercial and recreational fisheries can be difficult. We know that people often fire economic numbers at committee members that are not comprehensible or credible. Committee members have to be careful not to utilize metrics or reports that are flawed or make apples-to-oranges comparisons.
In 2004 the provincial government commissioned a report that looked at the economic contribution of the commercial fishing, tidal recreational fishing, and aquaculture industries on an equal footing using a methodology that was approved by all user groups. The report shows, and continues to show in updates provided by the principal author, that the commercial fishing industry contributes more in terms of GDP, revenue, employment, and wages and salaries than either tidal water recreational fishing or aquaculture.
The commercial halibut fishery is part of Canada’s Pacific commercial fishing industry. It has a landed value of approximately $43 million a year and a wholesale value of about $116 million. The fishery started in the late 1880s. Today there are fourth- and fifth-generation fishermen participating in the fishery. The fishery has played a vital role in British Columbia’s economy and has shaped its communities, culture, and cuisine. Commercial halibut fishermen have worked hard over the past 25 years to transform their fishery into what is now considered one of the best-managed fisheries in the world. As a result, the David Suzuki Foundation has described the fishery as “one of the high-bar examples in the world” of how a multi-species longline fishery should be conducted. The commercial halibut fishery was also the first in B.C. to receive the globally recognized Marine Stewardship Council eco-certification, which acknowledges the fishery’s catch accounting system as “one of the most rigorous in the world”.
Fisheries managers need to know how many fish have been caught if there is to be sustainable resource management. Fisheries management does not work without precise and accurate information on total removals. DFO has this information for the commercial fishery. The department does not have this information for the recreational fishery. Improving the management and the monitoring of the recreational fishery, particularly for the fishing lodge and charter vessel sector, is urgent. Given that it can take a significant portion of the total recreational harvest—60% in the case of Pacific halibut, as mentioned—the fishing lodge and charter vessel sector should be regulated in a manner similar to that of a commercial fishery.
There is presently no DFO licensing of fishing lodge and charter vessel businesses and they do not have mandatory catch reporting requirements. The recreational fishery, in particular, the fishing lodge and charter vessel sector, needs to be able to meet global standards with respect to catch monitoring and reporting. Recreational fisheries in developed countries increasingly look toward Marine Stewardship Council certification in order to demonstrate sustainability. As we know in the commercial fisheries, market forces are powerful and can transform fisheries management. These recreational fishing businesses should strive to get to the same standards as commercial fisheries, whereby they too could be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
There has been a commercial and recreational allocation framework in place for Pacific halibut. It was implemented in 2003 following substantial consultations with all fishing sectors. The framework provided stability and certainty for all participants and, as a result, commercial fishing families made investments not only in fishing vessels and gear and access privileges but also in conservation, in industry-funded monitoring programs and research surveys to collect the scientific information necessary to perform stock assessments.
In 2012, the long-standing allocation framework was changed and the recreational allocation was increased by 25%, from 12% of the total allowable catch to 15%. That decision took away business certainty and stability, eroded the investments of commercial fishing families and made people reluctant to reinvest in the fishery. Who is going to invest if their access to the critical component of their business can be taken away?
The recreational halibut fishery is dominated by fishing lodge and charter vessel businesses. It is patently unfair to take allocation from commercial fishing families who have invested in the fishery; to take from one group of Canadian family-owned businesses simply to give it to other businesses. It also makes little sense to take allocation from a well-managed and well-monitored fishery and give it to one that is poorly managed and monitored.
The 2012 decision was unnecessary. New management changes introduced into the recreational halibut fishery in 2013 have allowed it to remain open and the sector has not had to fully utilize its new, increased allocation. Halibut that could have been utilized in the commercial fishery went uncaught, resulting in millions in lost revenues and associated economic benefits and employment. There is a solution and there's a better way that addresses allocation disputes in a manner that is equitable and transparent.
Under a voluntary program for Pacific halibut, recreational stakeholders—recreational fishing businesses or individual recreational harvesters—can apply for a no-fee licence and acquire commercial halibut quota via the market. This allows them to fish for halibut beyond the limits of the standard recreational licence as well as ensure continued access to halibut in the event the sector attains its allocation and the fishery is closed. This gives recreational stakeholders greater certainty and stability, particularly for business planning purposes.
It allows for the transfer of allocation between the two business sectors of the halibut fisheries—between commercial fishermen and fishing lodge and charter vessel businesses—as well as between commercial fishermen and individual recreational harvesters. At the same time it does not impede those choosing to fish for halibut under the standard tidal water recreational fishing licence.
Fisheries allocation disputes are generally thought to be unsolvable. Fishing interests are continually arguing and lobbying for a larger share and government always finds itself in the middle, spending considerable time and resources trying to deal with these disputes. DFO, the commercial fishing sector, and the recreational fishing sector have come up with a solution in the Pacific halibut fisheries; a way to solve intractable allocation issues in a manner that is fair, equitable, and sustainable and requires little financial investment and involvement by government. In fact, it removes government from the middle of the process. We hope all parties would endorse this approach as a solution to an otherwise intractable problem.
It is important to note that PHMA members view recreational fishing as a legitimate user of the resource. In fact, many commercial fishermen also recreationally fish. We have a great resource on Canada’s Pacific coast that can provide food for Canada and the world and leisure activity as long as it is sustainably managed.
PHMA would like to leave the committee with three messages.
First, recreational fisheries, at least on the Pacific coast, cannot be considered in isolation; they cannot be considered without looking at the broader context that includes commercial fishing.
Second, market forces are increasingly bringing pressure for full catch accountability, one of the hallmarks of sound fisheries management. Recreational fisheries need to move in this direction sooner rather than later to ensure that B.C. does not get left behind and can instead realize a competitive advantage.
Third, there's a way to solve allocation disputes that can create a win-win situation for all parties rather than a situation where one party or the other always loses. It requires little involvement by government. In fact, it gets government out of the unenviable position of always having to be in the middle of these disputes.
We thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee.
Thank you, Mr. Sporer, for taking the time to be with us today.
Let me begin by saying that I fully agree with your comments about the way the commercial halibut fishery is managed on B.C.'s coast. I was involved in the decision, back in the day, to implement the integrated groundfish fishery. I can tell you from this side that it was a pretty difficult decision, and I imagine it was probably at least as difficult or more difficult for the commercial sector to accept what was really being created by them but in a very cooperative and collaborative way. I really think it is one of the best in the world, so congratulations to all who have been part of that.
I think it hasn't been without its difficulties as well, but I don't want to talk about those today.
In your presentation, you mentioned the numbers. Just to clarify, you say a small number of British Columbians participate, and I suppose percentage-wise one might view it that way, but it's not an insignificant number. For recreational fishing, in British Columbia and around the country as well, if there are, say, between 300,000 and 400,000 British Columbians who fish recreationally, that really isn't insignificant.
Just to clarify on the halibut, you've given some numbers but I think your numbers are about recreational fishing for all species, not just for halibut. I think it is pretty clear that the interest in recreational fishing for halibut has actually increased over the years. Is that accurate or not?
Just to be clear, it's 60% of the total recreational harvest of halibut. Basically, it's an estimate that DFO does based on a number of sources.
As I said, in the commercial sector, there's quite a bit of concern about whether those numbers are accurate. That's because, if they're not accurate, if you have one sector that is overharvesting, it affects everyone who's using that resource. What we need is a catch monitoring and catch reporting system that has been peer reviewed, that has been looked at by scientists and statisticians who have said that it will produce accurate numbers.
For instance, in the commercial fishery, when we moved to using cameras on our vessels—video-based camera systems and electronic monitoring systems—DFO required us to go through a peer review process and undertake a study. In comparing an observer with the camera, I think back then it cost us $30,000 to do the report and the study, and then we had to go through a peer review process.
We need to make sure that whatever those numbers are, they're accurate, if we're going to have sound resource management. Right now, there's concern in the commercial fishery—right or wrong—that the numbers are inaccurate.