Statement on the Closure of 79 B.C. Salmon Fisheries

The following statement is supported by a coalition of fish harvester organizations made up of B.C. Northern Trollers Association, Area C Harvest Committee, Area D Gillnet Association, Area D Harvest Committee, Area E Gillnet Association, Area E Harvest Committee, Area F Harvest Committee, Area G Harvest Committee, Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation, Canadian Sablefish Association, Coastal Community Network, Northern Native Fishing Corporation, Skipper Otto Community Supported Fishery, and UFAWU-Unifor.

The sudden announcement of 79 salmon fishery closures has left commercial salmon harvesters devastated as the future of both B.C. salmon and the province’s coastal communities becomes uncertain.

Released by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan on June 29th as part of the $647 million Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI), these closures have been framed as a radical course of action taken to combat the salmon crisis. What has not been advertised, is that these closures lack grounding in science and blatantly disregard the true causes of the crisis.

This January, harvesters and more than 10 salmon organizations came together to create the Future of B.C. Commercial Salmon Fishing Report. In this report, they identified critical recommendations for the future of B.C. salmon — including tackling habitat degradation, enhancement, predation, and climate change. These issues have taken a severe toll on B.C. salmon and are yet to be addressed by DFO.

B.C. harvesters care deeply about the health of salmon stocks — relying on the fish to sustain their way of life while providing wild salmon to the people of B.C. Salmon fisheries are managed on abundance, meaning that when salmon runs are low, fisheries wait for abundance.

While local salmon harvesters make for convenient scapegoats, it’s time for the government to address the real issues. Instead, the federal government has spent the past 20 years drastically reducing commercial fishing capacity and access, and yet salmon stocks have continued to decline.

If ending the salmon crisis was as simple as reducing fisheries, the crisis we see today wouldn’t exist.

As we face these closures, a historic heatwave, spurred on by the effects of climate change, further degrades salmon habitat through both wildfires and flooding.

This government has spent more than $16 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline — all despite a message of “Conservation First.” If Ottawa invested even a quarter of that figure, B.C. could have a robust and sustainable community-based salmon fishery forever.

The abruptness of these closures further exemplifies the lack of due diligence on the Minister’s part.

DFO’s own biologists and managers were not consulted or notified in these decisions, nor were harvesters made aware that any such closures were imminent.

Many harvesters were freshly geared up, fees paid and deckhands aboard, heading their vessels to the salmon openings they were told to expect — expectations built on the previous six months of Integrated Harvest Planning Committee meetings with DFO’s salmon managers and science branch.

Those affected by these closures have no safety net, nor were they offered one.

This new “plan” has no mechanism to re-open the fisheries when stocks are in abundance — and unfished runs that are overabundant create problems such as predator dependency and over-spawning.

These closures will devastate salmon, harvesters, and coastal communities alike. The only gain will be the political favour of those who’ve been fooled into thinking this is the answer to the salmon crisis. 

Salmon, harvesters, and the Canadian public need a genuine commitment to fixing the causes of the problem — not a pair of Ottawa’s antiquated scissors to cut away the fabric of B.C.’s coastal heritage and the future of salmon itself.

For more information or to schedule an interview with a spokesperson, please contact UFAWU-Unifor Communications Organizer Liam Hill-Allan at communications@ufawu.org.