Establishing Harvest Quotas
BC’s commercial salmon fisheries are nearly the only commercial fisheries in the province that have not gone to a quota-based management system. While an increasing number of quota-based demonstration fisheries are taking place, the majority of BC’s commercially-caught salmon are still landed in competitive derby-style fisheries where any boat with the appropriate commercial fishing license can participate, and fishermen race to catch as many fish as they can while the fishery remains open. When it comes to conservation, the current antiquated way of managing salmon fisheries presents a host of problems. For example, rushed fishermen are unable to devote adequate attention to releasing non-target species back to the water with the least possible harm, likely reducing the survival rate for those fish that are released; and fishery managers do not have full control over the numbers of fish that are caught, or the number of vessels that participate in the fishery.
Quota-based fisheries, on the other hand, allow managers to place strict, enforceable caps on the each vessel’s allowable catch, as well as the by-catch of non-target fish species. These fisheries also allow fishermen to take the time necessary to release fish from non-target species with minimal harm, and to comply with other fishing regulations. Coupled with such things as the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative a quota-based fishery management system would help facilitate the necessary transfer of fishing effort from indiscriminant coastal mixed-stock fisheries to “terminal” fisheries that only harvest stronger stocks that can withstand fishing pressure.
While a full transition harvest quotas would be a vast improvement for the management of BC commercial salmon fisheries, it would not be a panacea. Overfishing could still occur, and there would still be a need for robust enforcement of fishing regulations. Critics of quota-based fishery systems raise legitimate criticisms and cautions about what such a transition would mean for the salmon and salmon fishermen in BC. But there is now ample evidence from around the world to show that quota-based fisheries are more likely to be sustainable, economically viable, and well-managed than antiquated derby-style fisheries like BC’s unprofitable and controversial commercial salmon fisheries.
For more information on how a quota-based management system would benefit BC’s salmon fisheries, check out the report Transferable Shares in British Columbia’s Commercial Salmon Fishery written for Watershed Watch by award-winning fisheries writer Terry Glavin.