Thank you, Mr. Chair, for inviting the department to appear before your committee today.
Good afternoon to the committee members. Thank you to all for your welcome.
As introduced, I'm Rebecca Reid, regional director general for Fisheries and Oceans in the Pacific region, which includes B.C. and the Yukon. I'm honoured to appear before the standing committee with my colleagues. I'd like to introduce Mr. Kevin Anderson, senior adviser on indigenous relations, previously the regional director general for the Newfoundland and Labrador region. I'd also like to introduce Mr. Andrew Thomson, regional director of fisheries management in the Pacific region.
We are pleased to appear today to provide you with information related to the department's licensing and management regime and to answer any questions you may have. Mr. Anderson will be able to speak to the Atlantic situation, while Mr. Thomson and I are familiar with the Pacific coast fisheries.
The conservation, protection and sustainable management of the resource is still the department's core mandate. However, the department recognizes the importance of social, economic and cultural considerations in fisheries management decision-making.
As I'm sure you all know, Bill includes proposed amendments to the Fisheries Act that clearly state this principle.
The department's fisheries management regime is designed to achieve five objectives: conservation outcomes; compliance with legal obligations, such as first nations rights; promoting the stability and economic viability of fishing operations; encouraging equitable distribution of benefits; and facilitating the necessary data collection for administration, enforcement and planning purposes.
I would like to provide a very brief overview of how this has taken shape in the Pacific coast commercial fisheries, outlining key features of our licensing and management regime and describing how it has evolved into a set of diverse arrangements that are in place today.
There are approximately 80 marine and anadromous species caught in over 20 uniquely licensed commercial fisheries operating in British Columbia. These fisheries are made up of about 7,600 eligible licences, 2,400 vessels and 5,000 individuals with fisher registration cards. The total landed value of commercial capture fisheries excluding aquaculture was approximately $398 million in 2017.
Licence policy in British Columbia has evolved over the decades. If you looked at historical records, they documented recognition by fishery managers of the day of the need for adequate tools to manage fishing effort to ensure conservation of the stocks. Even going back to a policy for Canada's commercial fisheries, described in a 1976 paper by then minister Roméo LeBlanc, the policy document reflected on challenges facing the industry, many of which are familiar even today, that provided broad principles to establishing our licensing policies.
Since then, there have been many reviews and papers written reflecting on the changing conditions and contexts facing the fishing industry. In the Pacific region, licensing policy has continued to evolve over the past several decades, culminating in our current set of policy documents and codification practices.
Because fish populations, fisheries and fishing technology change over time, so must the licensing rules and management approaches governing our fisheries. Different rules and management approaches between fisheries are a reflection of the unique biological characteristics of the targeted stocks, how they've been fished and the expansion of fishing capacity within each fishery. Many of the rules have been added to control aspects of the fishery, with the particular need to manage the amount of effort, what we call “fishing power”, that the fleet exerts on fish stocks.
There are five licensing and management features common to most or all of the Pacific coast commercial fisheries that I'd like to describe for you briefly.
The first feature, which is common to virtually all Pacific coast commercial fisheries, is called “limited entry licensing”. It was first introduced in the salmon fishery during the late 1960s and was subsequently extended to other fisheries. Limited entry is intended to limit the growth of fishing capacity and reduce the risk of overfishing.
The second feature relates to how licences are held. In the Pacific region, there's a combination of vessel-based and party-based licences across fisheries. Under vessel-based licensing, the licence is held by a vessel and the vessel owner or owners have control over licensing transactions. Under party-based licensing, the licence is held by an individual, company or first nation that has control of licensing transactions.
The party-based licences are annually designated to a vessel. There is a list available of which licences are party-based versus vessel-based that we can review in further detail, if requested.
Third, length restrictions on vessels are in place for many fisheries. These restrictions were introduced primarily to constrain fleet capacity and limit catch and effort, though they can also support equitable and orderly harvest and viable operations for participants.
The fourth is the rules governing the transfer of licences from one party or vessel to another. The rules serve to ensure a clear and consistent process for licence transfers, but can also include objectives relating to resource conservation. The rules are fishery specific and are established to manage or control particular objectives of that fishery.
Finally, the fifth aspect I want to talk to you about is called “stacking and splitting rules”. When licences for different fisheries are placed on one vessel, specific rules will stipulate that licences may not be separated and placed on different vessels—we call these “marriage rules”—again, with the objective of preventing increases to the number of vessels in the fleet.
You may be wondering by now why or how the licensing rules have evolved in the manner I've described and what the reasons are for some of those changes. There are a couple of important trends that underpin many of the approaches that drive our current licensing rules.
An overarching issue that has driven Pacific fisheries policy is that we have an overcapacity in our fleets. Common themes relate to the size of the fleet and its harvesting ability, or as I've described it, its fishing power, and that exceeds what is necessary to obtain an optimum yield.
In response, strategies have been put in place to manage or reduce fishing capacity in order to conserve and protect fish populations. In the mid-1970s, individual quotas, IQs, began to be introduced in many Pacific coast fisheries; licences were allocated a specific share of the catch limit. In many cases, individual quotas are transferable among licence-holders.
Individual quotas have been introduced in a number of fisheries, including integrated groundfish fishery, for example, halibut, sablefish, geoduck, prawns, and certain salmon fisheries. The purpose of quotas is to ensure more effective controlled fisheries within catch limit, an orderly and well-managed fishery, and improved financial performance of fisheries. Where implemented, individual quotas have shifted the focus of fisheries management from controlling fishing effort, or input controls, to controlling the catch, or output controls.
Individual quotas illustrate the question that I posed before about why licence rules change. This approach has allowed a shift away from this input control management regime, which is no longer needed to achieve our conservation objectives. In cases like this, DFO has been able to relax or eliminate rules governing things like vessel length restrictions and marriage rules, with the objective of providing industry with increased flexibility.
As an example for you, in 1996 the Pacific salmon revitalization strategy was introduced as a way to reduce fishing capacity through compensated voluntary licence retirement, the introduction of area and gear-based licensing, and stacking, which meant that a vessel could have more than one licence, thereby encouraging overall reduction of the fleet.
As a general rule, major fisheries management changes are controversial among fishery participants. Investments in a fishery based on pre-existing rules and changes do not benefit all participants equally. Dynamics like this illustrate the complexity of making licensing and fisheries management changes.
The context and history on the west coast is highly influenced by approximately 200 first nations groups, many of whom rely on fishing for their food and cultural and economic well-being. The aboriginal fisheries strategy, introduced in 1994, and the Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiative, introduced in 2007, have both provided funds for the acquisition of licences and quota from existing fishery participants to be transferred to first nations. These programs have resulted in substantial and ongoing reallocation of fishing access from regular commercial licence-holders to first nations, worth about $140 million.
Just to wrap up, I would like to say that the Pacific fisheries continue to evolve, and we regularly receive proposals for changes put forward by various commercial fishing groups. We consider these proposals and incorporate them into reviews and consultations. While we are supportive of implementing proposals when they are supported by a clear majority of participants, often what we end up with is a diverse range of perspectives, which makes implementation very difficult.
In summary, in the short period of time it is very hard to even scratch the surface of many of the factors and features important to understanding the licensing policy, but I have been able to share a few of them with you.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to this topic, and we are available for your questions.
Thank you, Chairman McDonald and members of the committee, for the invitation to address you today.
My name is Rachel Donkersloot, and I currently serve as director of the working waterfronts program for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. I am joining you today from Anchorage, Alaska, where I work on issues related to marine resource governance, rural and small-scale fisheries access, and coastal community sustainability and well-being.
Much of what I share with you today is described in more detail in the recently published report, “Turning the Tide: How can Alaska address the graying of the fleet and loss of rural fisheries access?” This report is the product of a three-year ethnographic project focusing on the graying of the fleet in Alaska fisheries.
Alaska is known globally as a leader in sustainable fisheries management, but Alaska fisheries and communities are not immune to the consequences of privatizing fisheries access. The now predictable outcomes of transforming the right to fish into individualized, tradable commodities are well documented in the North Pacific and include the systematic displacement and disproportionate negative impact on rural, small-scale and indigenous fishermen and communities, as well as young fishermen and new entrants.
For example, since limited entry programs were implemented in state commercial fisheries in Alaska, permit holdings by rural residents local to their fisheries have declined by 30%. ln federal fisheries managed under individual fishing quotas, IFQs, the trend is similar, with small rural communities in the Gulf of Alaska experiencing an over 50% decline in IFQ holdings.
Of the permits that do remain in rural Alaska, increasingly older fishermen hold them. The average fisherman in 2018 was over 50 years old, a decade older than the average fisherman of a generation ago.
This “graying of the fleet”, and loss of local access to commercial fisheries in Alaska, threatens the healthy succession of fishing as an economic and cultural mainstay in coastal communities, and creates a clear public policy concern.
A range of programs and policy provisions have been created in Alaska to address this crisis of social sustainability. Some of these programs have been more impactful than others in meeting their objectives.
What's working in Alaska? Perhaps the single most significant and supported element of state-managed fisheries in Alaska is the owner-on-board, or “boots-on-deck”, provision. Regulations require that limited entry permits can only be held by persons, as opposed to corporations or other entities. Leasing of permits is prohibited except in cases of medical or other emergency. This provision has ensured that the benefits wrought from state fisheries flow to and through working fishermen and fishing families.
ln federal fisheries, impactful programs include quota set-asides, such as the jig sector set-aside in the Gulf of Alaska. The jig fishery serves as a true entry-level opportunity in an industry marked by significant, sometimes impassable, barriers related to the high cost of entry.
The well-known community development quota, CDQ, program is another example in place in western Alaska. The CDQ program was created in 1992 as part of the rationalization of the Bering Sea pollock fishery. The program allocates a portion of all Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands quotas for groundfish, halibut and crab to CDQ entities, which use these royalties to advance regional economic development through investments in local industry, ownership of offshore vessels, infrastructure and education.
The halibut and sablefish IFQ fisheries include numerous provisions intended to protect small-scale opportunity and the owner-operator nature of the fishery. These include caps on the amount of quota a vessel can land and a person can hold, restrictions on who can receive quota—largely IFQ crew members—and a prohibition on leasing and the use of hired masters. Another key feature is the creation of quota share classes based on vessel size. Quota shares are divided into classes based on vessel length, and larger vessels are prohibited from purchasing or fishing quota shares designated for smaller vessels.
This has helped to ensure small-scale participation in the fishery, but has been unsuccessful in ensuring that fishing opportunity remains in rural and indigenous place-based communities that have been disproportionately affected by the historic outflow of fishing rights. A program implemented in 2005 designed to address inequities contributing to this outflow has been largely unsuccessful in bringing back opportunities for village fisheries. This is due largely to the high cost of halibut quota shares today.
The State of Alaska and other regional organizations have also created a number of financing tools, loan programs and educational and apprenticeship programs to support Alaska fishermen, which are also outlined in the full report.
Other fishing regions and nations have developed programs and mechanisms to address problems of lost fishing opportunity related to the transferability and privatization of fishing rights.
Largely, programs have been amended to include provisions to recreate opportunity for small-scale fishermen, rural communities, indigenous peoples, and youth and future generations.
Some examples of these types of program include small-scale fishery provisions, such as Norway's open group fishery, which targets small-scale fishermen who did not qualify for individual vessel quotas, and Iceland's coastal or quota-free fishery, which allows for limited harvesting opportunities without purchasing individual transferable quotas, ITQs.
Provisions for rural communities include Maine's island limited entry program as well as eastern Canada's adjacency to the resource principle.
Provisions to protect indigenous access include an annual set-aside for Sami regions in Norway. These provisions favour small-scale fishermen and have catalyzed the revival of some fjord fisheries since 2010.
Norway's recruitment quota program also offers an example of provisions specifically designed to support young fishermen. The program allows fishermen under the age of 30 to apply for recruitment quota at no cost. Recruitment quota cannot be sold and helps to facilitate new entry into Norway's closed fisheries. The program has been well received by young fishermen wanting to enter the industry.
Other amendments to quota and permanent programs around the globe are outlined in our report.
In closing, it's important to note that, though in many ways Alaska has been in the forefront in working to balance multiple fishery management objectives and interests, especially maintaining owner-on-board fisheries, work remains if we are to meaningfully address declines in intergenerational and rural fisheries access. Provisions highlighted here are the product of clear policy choices, each with identified intent. I hope that the north Pacific continues to serve as a leader in developing policies and provisions that ensure equitable and sustainable fisheries for current and future generations, and I applaud your work toward this end here today.
In closing, I will mention that the full “Turning the Tide” report is available on our project website, at fishermen.alaska.edu, along with other project findings and papers. I thank the committee for its time today, and I'm happy to answer any questions.
Thank you, everybody, for being here.
A kind of a preamble—and I have a lot of questions, as I think all of our colleagues do—is that the announcement that we were going to do this study created concern. There are people who are participating in various ways in the west coast fishery who have organized themselves and have proceeded according to the rules. They're concerned that we're going to blow everything up. I don't think that's anybody's desire.
The young fishers we heard from a number of months ago were very clear that, even though they're looking at considerable barriers to entry into the industry as young fishers, they had no desire to disadvantage the people who have proceeded in good faith and have created, basically, the regime we have today.
We need to look at alternatives. We need to look at what we can do to, first of all, meet some of the points that the DFO indicates are its targets: economic viability, sustainable livelihoods, distribution, access to benefits, regional economic benefits and sustainable communities. I would submit that if you talk to some fishers, you'd hear we're not meeting any of those, and certainly some analyses of the DFO's activities are that we've done kind of okay in a macro sense on the economic side, but not at all on the social and community side.
First of all, I have a couple of technical questions. How many fisheries in British Columbia are basically governed through an ITQ system, and how many are not? Give as short as possible an answer, if you could.