“B.C.’s salmon wars about ownership, not race”

Globe and Mail image

A decent article from the Globe and Mail today:

B.C.’s salmon wars about ownership, not race


Setting this story against the recent history of salmon declines (except for the unexplained cornucopia of 2010 along the Fraser) may illustrate what happens when over-generous licensing and ever-better fish predation technologies collide with climate change.

Whatever the source, we have a lot of unhappy people chasing generally fewer salmon each year. Even trickier, the largest and most aggrieved group, the non-native commercial fishers, adds the least value to the provincial economy per fish.

A fine salmon sliced, steamed and canned is worth a few dollars a pound at most. When caught by a sports angler, it may cost several hundred dollars a pound. Economic rationality would suggest that, beyond the needs of conservation and the constitutionally guaranteed Indian fishery, the entire commercial fishery should give way to serving those vast hordes of fellows who spend like sheikhs on boats, guides, lures, gear, accommodations, and even, it has been hinted, potable fluids – to the considerable enrichment of all in the province. An equitable buy-out could increase jobs and income for all.

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Certainly a curious conclusion — over and above the constitutionally guaranteed First Nation fishery, make everything else a sport fishery.

I’m not so sure that making everything a sport fishery would “increase jobs and income for all” — however it would certainly be a different picture. And… it may not be that far off. Some sport fishing outfits have been looking to buy commercial-type quotas so that they have more fish to catch with their clients.

Unfortunately, one of the issues with some of the sport fishing industry is places like Haida Gwaii where much of the industry is controlled by companies located a longgg ways from the islands. Many of the sport fishing clients never even see a local community or local person, as they’re flown straight to their west coast lodge or mothership.

Very little local benefit, and in some cases very little B.C. benefit.

Yet, salmon sport fisheries — no question — add much more value to fish caught then the commercial salmon fishery. In some ways the commercial salmon fishery seems a relic from the Industrial Age — as are the institutional arrangements that ‘manage’ it, and folks that continue to lobby government hard for its continued existence.

A similar story has been written in the B.C. logging industry. An industrial age relic had to undergo massive changes over the last two decades — add more value and be much more aware of ecological impacts. The age of turning 800 year old, 200 ft high old growth Sitka Spruce — into 2 x 4s which were then exported, has largely gone the way of the BC coast ship building industry.

Change is not such a bad thing — however, resistance to that change is inevitable.

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