Thursday, January 25, 2007

Harvesting the seas the topic of the day on Wednesday in Prince Rupert

The Daily News featured two stories of importance to the local fishing industry in the Wednesday edition, the first an examination of the battle between salmon farmers and those against the idea of the farms getting more of a footprint in the province.

The second story, takes on the issue of the Crab industry in Northern waters and an unusual decision by DFO to fund only a study in the south, but not in the north.

It’s another interesting turn for the local crab industry which is finding itself in the spotlight over a number of issues in the north these days, from wind farms offshore to government ambivalence onshore.

The DFO decision met with a bit of resistance from City Council which weighed in on the matter during their council meeting this week below.

Salmon farmers welcome court’s ruling
The Daily News
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

British Columbia’s salmon farmers are challenging anti-aquaculture organizations to demonstrate accountability, and to apologize for defamatory and malicious statements that they say are designed to frighten people away from eating farmed salmon.

The call comes following a Supreme Court decision rendered by Madam Justice Gerow that found environmentalist Don Staniford intentionally used inflammatory words and withheld facts in an effort to damage the reputation of salmon farmers in British Columbia.

“We applaud the Supreme Court decision and recognize that the ruling signals a move towards applying a similar set of accountability measures to critics” said Mary Ellen Walling, executive director, B.C. Salmon Farmers Association.

“The Court has ruled that it is unlawful to deliberately mislead the public in the guise of public education.

“If activist groups are to retain any semblance of public trust they should, at a minimum, meet the same standards of scrutiny applied to others.”

The call for accountability comes at the same time as Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform (CAAR) is promoting a new brochure discounting the health benefits of eating farmed salmon and salmon farmers’ commitment to environmental sustainability.

“The notion that those of us who live and work in coastal communities would endorse an activity harmful to our environment is ridiculous,” said Gerry Furney, Mayor of Port McNeill.
“The facts are as coastal residents we are actively involved, on a daily basis, as guardians of our environment. The court ruling should be seen as a vindication of an industry which practices environmental sustainability, supports economic diversification and creates opportunities in coastal communities.”

“I strongly believe that we can have both – a healthy environment for all fish populations and an economically viable aquaculture industry.”

B.C. salmon farmers add that they believe in both the importance of protecting wild salmon and salmon farming as a natural way to meet growing global demand for salmon without putting undue pressure on wild stocks.

Crabbers call on DFO to ‘shell out’ for stock testing
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

City council was left clawing for answers last night about the lack of commitment by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to pay for stock assessment for the northern crab fishery. And they intend to pinch DFO for answers.

“They are covering the cost of the southern stock assessment program but not the northern program,” said Coun. Joy Thorkelson.

“I mean what is it, are we chopped liver?”

Geoff Gould of the Area A Crab Association explained that last October, the federal courts ruled in the Larocque decision that the government cannot use the fishing resource to fund its operations, grounding many test fisheries to a halt until DFO starts funding them out of its regular operating budget.

For the last six years, DFO has conducted a soft shell sampling program in Hecate Strait, with crabbers bidding on the right to conduct it and being allowed to harvest a certain amount of catch in exchange.

The data obtained from the test fishery is used in-season to accurately predict the time of the Dungeness crab moult and allow for a spring fishery.

However, there was no call for bids last November for the test fishery that usually happens in February, said Gould. Without it, the crab season would be shortened this year by two months and no activity would take place for the hundreds of locals employed in the industry from March 1 until Aug. 1.

And despite repeated attempts by the Area A Crab Association to get an answer from DFO, none has been forthcoming and February is right around the corner.

“The Federal Court of Canada has said the government has to provide the funds to have fisheries,” said Thorkelson. “Right now, they are not living up to that.”

Thorkelson went on to say that the Larocque decision is causing concern for fishermen working with all species, including salmon and herring.

Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond said his blood boils when the North Coast is treated differently than other areas.

“On the East Coast with the snow crab, we have heard ... that Fisheries is going to fully fund all the research,” said Gould.

“They are going to fund it on the East Coast but not on the West Coast. I guess we better make a ruckus.”

Gould noted stock assessment on the South Coast is minimal for crabs and there is no annual closure for the soft shell.

The Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce has also written DFO seeking an answer. The cost to fund the scientific fishery would be about $400,000 on the North Coast, and about $15 million country-wide — a tiny fraction of DFO’s approximately $1.5 billion budget.
However, local crabbers play a big part of the economy in Prince Rupert and on the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Not only do crabbers provide product that employs shoreworkers, the industry also pays around $10 million in wages.

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