Yet another group of the fishery sector is expressing its concerns over DFO policies as members of the provinces Halibut Fishery have launched a class action suit against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The Daily news featured the details on the case in the Thursday edition, a story which was picked up by Canwest news and featured in the Vancouver Sun on Friday.
Halibut fishermen look to take on the DFO over quotas
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The federal Fisheries Minister can add one more disgruntled fishery to his list, as British Columbia halibut fishermen have now launched a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The lawsuit claims that the DFO quota initiative implemented on the halibut fishery in 2001 has unfairly withheld 10 per cent of the annual halibut harvest each season since. Lorne Iverson, a Burnaby-based halibut fisherman explained that DFO transferred a percentage of the entire halibut quota to a single licence holder, who then sold the quota back to other fishermen at inflated prices. Iverson claims that DFO then shared in the additional levies and the funds were allegedly used to support DFO research.
"The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief, restitution and damages from the federal minister of fisheries," said Meldon Ellis, a senior partner of Vancouver firm Ellis Business Lawyers, which filed the action.
"The fisheries were subjected to a funding scheme implemented by the DFO without legislative authority.
"In effect, the minister assessed a tax without parliamentary debate or budgetary approval, thus violating one of the longest-standing principles of tax law and constitutional democracies; that there be no taxation without representation."
Ellis said the lawsuit is based in part on a 2006 Federal Court ruling on a similar situation from the East Coast. In that judgment, the court found that the fisheries minister did not have the legal right to finance his department's research through the sale of snow crabs. The Federal Court of appeal determined that "the minister financed his scientific research program without first appropriating the funds necessary and by misappropriating resources that do not belong to him."
Gerald Dalum is president of an association of B.C. fishermen known as Fishing For Freedom, who are funding the disbursements for action. Dalum said the case is "long overdue," and could have "far reaching implications for the West Coast fishing industry".
"The industry doesn't object to contributing to science and research, but does object to funding costly government policies over which the industry has no input," he added.
According to the B.C. government1s Year in Review report on seafood for 2006, the B.C. halibut catch was valued at $53.9 million and represents nearly 45 per cent of the total harvest of groundfish caught in B.C.