Canada is creating a nationwide roadmap for ocean development: The Blue Economy Strategy is Canada’s vision to grow a sustainable ocean based economy that creates jobs in coastal communities while ensuring the oceans remain healthy. On June 15, 2021 the Fisheries for Communities Coalition met with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to share our vision for the Blue Economy Strategy.
In order to have a successful Blue Economy, we need an action plan to put the control over and benefit from fisheries access back into the hands of harvesters, First Nations, and rural coastal communities.
The Blue Economy Strategy should aim to develop a thriving fisheries economy on all coasts, where equitable shares of the wealth drawn from adjacent resources flow to harvesters and their communities, and where a new generation can build resilient communities with productive engagement throughout the fisheries value chain. This strategy must advance reconciliation efforts now underway with First Nations.
To create this future the Blue Economy Strategy must include the development of a BC fisheries licensing policy that transitions the ownership of licences and quota to bona fide BC fish harvesters and First Nations. The Blue Economy Strategy for the commercial fishery in British Columbia should include the following directions to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard:
1) By 2022, develop and commit to implementing a new policy framework that requires that BC licenses and quota can only be owned by bona fide fish harvesters and First Nations, with the following milestones:
- By December 2021, require that there be no further sales of BC licences and quota to non-Canadian beneficial owners,
- By 2022, implement the voluntary owner/operator designation as proposed by the UFAWU.
- By 2025, all licences and quota shall only be owned by bona fide fish harvesters or First Nations.
2) Establish an independently led, inclusive, and transparent engagement process for development and implementation of this policy paying close attention to the advice on process provided by the FOPO Report 21 West Coast Fisheries: Sharing Risks and Benefits.
3) Develop and implement a strategy with pathways and transition mechanisms for the establishment of made-in-BC policies, that will ensure ownership of licenses and quotas are held by bona fide BC fish harvesters and First Nations. Many of these are outlined in the FOPO report, including:
- Transparent tracking of beneficial ownership,
- Transparent tracking of socio-economic data on fisheries,
- Financial Incentives for independent ownership of licences,
- Investment in infrastructure and strategies to recapture values from processing and ancillary services in adjacent communities,
- Strategic development of labour force renewal, and
- Following the federal licensing policy change, provision of business support and financing programs that support the affordable transition of ownership to independent fish harvesters and First Nations.
4) The implementation framework must also provide transitional support and fair compensation for specific groups whose interests may be unfairly compromised by such changes.