Gord Johns, NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni, is calling on the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to provide immediate relief to salmon harvesters following the sudden announcement by her department to close 60 percent of commercial salmon fisheries on the west coast of British Columbia.
“This decision has blindsided fish harvesters, many of whom have already heavily invested in fishing equipment and supplies for the season and now face financial hardship,” Johns wrote in a letter to the minister, Bernadette Jordan.
“This could have been avoided if meaningful consultation and collaborative management had been employed.”
The federal fisheries department announced June 29 that 79 of 138 commercial and First Nations communal fisheries would be affected by the closure, which amounts to 60 percent of Pacific salmon fisheries in B.C. and the Yukon. Jordan said the closures were intended to increase the number of salmon reaching spawning grounds.
Johns said the decision, announced by Jordan’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans on June 29, was made without consulting commercial fishers and others working in the industry or First Nations whose Indigenous right to catch and sell fish was recently re-affirmed by the federal Court of Appeals.
“We know of at least four gillnetters stranded in Prince Rupert at this time and are aware indirectly of others in other locations, who are suddenly without the means to run their boats home,” said United Fishermen and Allied Workers’ Union business agent Emily Orr.
“These harvesters were relying upon fishing income from the salmon openings they were led by DFO to expect, and instead have been cut off from their livelihoods without warning and without a way to recover their expenses.”
The federal New Democratic Party supports the need for a license retirement program as a step forward to address the Pacific wild salmon emergency, Johns said. The party has insisted this must only be part of a multi-pronged approach required to ensure the conservation of salmon stocks while ensuring harvesters’ livelihoods are protected.
“The hard truth is that DFO’s mismanagement has significantly contributed to the wild salmon emergency that we face today,” Johns told the fisheries minister in his letter. “While the DFO continues to do nothing about corporate monopolization and foreign ownership of the west coast fishing industry, it announces closures like this which will devastate independent fish harvesters who are already struggling just to stay above water.
“The long-term question DFO must ask itself is: what is the collective vision as coastal communities, fishers and the governments for the future of commercial salmon fisheries?”