The Future of BC Commercial Salmon Fishing report was created collaboratively by 150 active commercial salmon harvesters and a coalition of their organizations. It outlines a path forward in the spirit of reconciliation and co-existence with First Nations
The coalition consists of the Area C Harvest Committee, Area D Gillnet Association, Area E Harvest Committee, Area G Trollers Association, Commercial Fishing Caucus, Native Brotherhood of B.C., Northern Native Fishing Corporation, Native Fishing Association, Northern Trollers Association, UFAWU-Unifor, as well as others.
The report details the current state of the commercial salmon industry; like the salmon, the industry is in crisis. The report includes recommendations for how to remedy this crisis across five areas: improving runs, allocation, access, governance, and licence planning.
Firstly, given stock collapse and current fleet size, a major harvester and licence retirement program is needed. This program must offer commercial salmon harvesters the ability to exit the industry with dignity and grace. For the future, it recommends all commercial salmon licences be held by harvesters or First Nations for active participation. A commercial salmon licence bank where licences from a buyout can be held will also allow for future re-entry into the industry. Licences must not be allowed to become investment paper or security for production for processors.
For those who wish to remain in the industry, it is essential that adequate funding be allocated to improve runs, manage allocations equitably, ensure access to harvest, and modernize governance. These recommendations would support and strengthen the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative as they are essential to the future for the commercial salmon industry.
The Future of BC Commercial Salmon Fishing report outlines how this can be achieved:
Salmon hatchery production must be increased and habitats must be improved. However, to improve salmon runs, predators must also be managed. Studies have shown that pinniped populations are having a direct and disastrous impact on salmon populations and must be controlled. These concurrent steps will build-up salmon numbers while reducing threats to both juvenile and adult salmon — helping to rebuild and maintain healthy runs.
Stable and accessible allocations are also crucial for a successful future — each sector has a right to exist and make a fair livelihood. Equitable sharing arrangements that support the co-existence of sectors must be negotiated. Recommendations for achieving equitable sharing arrangements that allow for supportive co-existence between sectors include: priority access
for FSC harvests, set allocations between sectors, local roundtables to co-manage local issues, and monitoring and compliance mechanisms.
Once a commercial allocation is established, there must be access to that allocation by commercial fish harvesters. Policies must be changed to permit access to harvestable surpluses. Recommendations for this include flexible fisheries planning; increased commercial test fisheries; science-based decisions over political ones, and more.
Improvements to governance are also necessary. If the commercial salmon fishery is to survive, the entire decision-making system needs to be restructured with transparency and increased communication between industry stakeholders as key priorities. Recommendations to support this include watershed, sub-regional, and regional roundtables.
It is the belief of the parties involved in developing this report that, if followed, these recommendations will create a salmon industry that is once again viable and profitable.