The quota system implemented by the federal government has essentially privatized a public natural resource. The result has been that large corporations have purchased the quotas consolidating them and making it harder for owner operators and smaller operations to compete. Since moving in this direction there are far fewer commercial fishermen and women.
In addition, a study has found that piscine reovirus (PRV), found in many fish farms on the coast raising Atlantic salmon is also present in farmed Pacific Chinook salmon. The obvious concern is that fish farms are dangerous breeding grounds of PRV that will threaten wild salmon migrating through the area.
Both of these issues are prime examples of the opportunity the government has to stand up for the important coastal communities and economies and our young fishing people.
Will they take advantage of this opportunity and support the future of commercial fishing on our coast?
FISHING INDUSTRY QUOTA SYSTEM
AND SUPPORT FOR YOUNG FISHERS
Young fishermen and fisherwomen in once thriving resource economies on the coast have been priced out of the industry. Commercial fisheries is organized into a system of quotas, effectively privatizing a natural resource owned by all British Columbians. Fisherwomen and fishermen have to pay 70 percent of the landed value of their catch to the corporation that owns the licence. It has become increasingly difficult for fishermen to support themselves and their families — so much so that the number of people fishing commercially in B.C. has dropped from about 20,000, in 1985, to 5,000, in 2015.
The federal government is doing a review of the Atlantic quota system but refusing to do the same for our coast. Young fisherwomen and fishermen are lobbying Ottawa, the federal government, on their own behalf to change the quota system. They’re the future of commercial fishing in B.C. and proving to be leaders of coastal communities. The provincial government has a real opportunity to be more vocal advocates for our youth leaders.
My question to the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: what substantive action is the province taking to support these young British Columbians?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak on such an important topic: young people and the future of our fisheries resource in the province. Absolutely, B.C.’ers should be benefiting from the resources in the oceans that they have, the communities have, at their front doorsteps.
I can remember people in the area that I represent being upstream benefactors of the fisheries resource. There used to be a processing facility where there’d be an annual migration of people from upstream communities. This wasn’t in my constituency but around the province, down to the coast — the benefit from the kind of jobs that the member talks about. Today these fisheries are still an economic driver in coastal communities and need to be protected for tomorrow and into future generations.
I know the member knows that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for the licensing he refers to around owner/operator and around fleet separation policy. And while we’re pleased to hear about the federal changes to the Fisheries Act, we will be working closely, and we welcome the opportunity to work closely, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure that B.C.’s interests are maintained in terms of conservation, which is primarily our responsibility; advancing reconciliation objectives, which, again, is part of this government’s important mandate; and maximizing the economic benefits in return to British Columbians.
Saanich North and the Islands on a supplemental.
AND WILD SALMON PROTECTION
Yes, absolutely, I know that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has lots of jurisdiction when it comes to our fisheries in the province of British Columbia, and the provincial government has a lot of responsibility and is banging the drum very loudly for our economy and the economy of our coastal communities. That’s what I’m encouraging the government to do.
Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development released a report last month that I talked about in question period, which concluded that DFO has not adequately managed the risks associated with the salmon farming industry and are failing their mandate to protect wild fish.
Compounding that dismal report, scientists have now discovered and confirmed that the highly contagious virus impacting Atlantic salmon now also harms Pacific salmon and can pose a serious threat to B.C.’s declining wild salmon populations if it spreads. Researchers found samples in farmed chinook and Atlantic salmon and confirmed the presence of the highly contagious piscine reovirus in both species. Fish farmers said it’s not a problem; it’s not a problem in their farms. The lead author of the study, Kristi Miller, from the DFO, said that something else is at stake here, and we have risk to the wild salmon.
My question, again, to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources…. As I said in my morning statement, I have a commitment to ensuring our children and future generations inherit a world with salmon. How many more studies is it going to take before this government steps in?
Hon. D. Donaldson:
I welcome the efforts of the member around ensuring that we have sustainable fisheries in B.C. and, again, point out that the federal responsibility in this area is paramount. However, we are focusing on what is within our jurisdiction constitutionally — that is, habitat protection to ensure that sustainable fisheries are able to proceed into the future; spawning channel concerns that we have jurisdiction over; sport fishing regulations as they apply to populations of endangered species and species at risk; and, of course, and especially, upholding the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ responsibilities with respect to fish health.
We’ll be continuing to do this. I look forward to further discussions with the member on ensuring that this opportunity is available, not just today but enhanced into the future for young people, as he points out, and fishing-dependent communities all up and down the coast.