We only have a short time to convince the Fisheries Minister that B.C. fish harvesters and coastal communities matter, and local fisheries should be a cornerstone of our coastal food system!
West Coast fisheries licencing policies are failing local fish harvesters, coastal fishing communities, and Canadians. This is a fundamentally broken system and it must be fixed.
In May members from all parties on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans unanimously endorsed 20 recommendations to address this problem. If adopted, these recommendations will make ownership and transfers of fishing licenses transparent, and will initiate a process to transform DFO licensing to genuinely support independent fish harvesters and their communities in B.C. The Department has yet to respond to the Fisheries Committee report found (here) and its recommendations.
Real, positive change is within our reach. A revised fisheries act (Bill C-68) was passed by Parliament in June with new language to define social, economic and cultural factors and the “preservation or promotion” of the independence of fish harvesters as key considerations in the management of fisheries. Policies to achieve greater social, economic and cultural benefits are already in place for fisheries in Atlantic Canada and C-68 will further strengthen and enforce them. But there is only one Fisheries Act and it applies equally for all of Canada. Preserving and promoting independent fleets and coastal communities now needs to become as high a priority in Pacific Region as it is in the Atlantic.
By signing this petition, we strongly urge the Canadian government to adopt the Fishery Committee’s recommendations for fundamental changes in West Coast fisheries policies.
Why? Because under the current policy system fish harvesters and coastal communities are rapidly losing access to, and any control over, public resources in their adjacent waters. Commercial fisheries are increasingly managed for the benefit of private investors, retired fishermen and remote companies. And it is not just harvesters and coastal communities that are losing out: the wider public interest is threatened as well. Of the $60 million in known fishing licence and quota transactions in 2018, fully half involved purchases by corporations from outside of Canada.
Investors and corporations are driving up prices for licences and quota beyond the reach of active fish harvesters in small-scale independent enterprises. Young people in fishing communities now find it extremely difficult to enter and remain in fisheries due to the extreme financial barriers. Our fisheries policies have allowed these trends to go unchecked leading to job loss, community decline and weakened cultural connections along the coast.
The damage extends from the vessels on the water right through the value chain to our dinner plates. Despite the bountiful and healthy food supply our oceans provide, families and local small businesses — fish mongers, chefs, restaurateurs, etc.— cannot access high quality and affordable local seafood. Currently 85% of fish harvested in Canada is exported while up to 93% of the seafood products available to Canadian consumers is imported. Our food security is endangered when Canadians lose access to our own seafood. Having more local fish flow through local food systems is healthier for the society and more sustainable for the resource.
We, the undersigned, call upon the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson to commit to reforming current Pacific Region fisheries policies to ensure that the many benefits of fisheries resources in Pacific waters flow to our harvesters, our coastal communities and the Canadian public. We urge you to accept and act on the 20 recommendations of the Fisheries Committee report, and to do so through full consultation and open collaboration with the Province of BC, First Nations, coastal communities, fish harvesters and their organizations, and other interest groups. The common goal must be to build an economically viable, environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and fair B.C. fishery.