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Salmon License buyback dissapointing

A federal plan to retire chinook salmon licenses in the B.C. fishery is not popular with the local fishing community.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) sees the $28.5 million buyback program as a way to enhance the economic viability of the commercial chinook troll fishery of the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

“To an active fisherman like myself, it doesn’t really mean much,” says Ucluelet fisherman Doug Kimoto, who owns an Area G license for commercial troll fishing on the West Coast. “I’m not willing to sell my license for such a low price.”

The buyback is the latest development under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. This 2008 treaty with the United States includes a 30 per cent reduction in catch for ten years for the West Coast area. The intent is for the American fishery to bounce back. Canada was compensated with cash.

Kimoto said the 30 per cent loss of catch has a huge impact on fishermen and coastal communities on the island.

“There are a lot of fishermen that would like to retire, or have health problems and want to get out of the industry, but right now they are not getting fair market value for their licenses.”

By not allowing them to fish, Kimoto says DFO is driving down the value of licenses.

Ucluelet mayor Bill Irving agrees four years of cutbacks and constraints means questionable value for the licenses.

“They are not going to get what they would for a strong healthy licence,” says Irving, adding that buyback programs undermine collaborative local effort.

“The communities, First Nations, and environmental groups all met and proposed to the government to not use buybacks,” Irving said.

“There are the grocery stores, fishing docks, repair shops and restaurants. There’s a huge part of the econ-omy that is affected by this.”

Kimoto said an independent study valued a troll licence at $150,000, but he says the buyback will not offer that much.

“In the proper buyback, they should have considered buying the whole fishing enterprise; the boat, the gear and the licence.”

Under this program, if a fishermen sells a licence they still have their boat and will need to pay moorage and maintenance costs.

A committee formed to consider the treaty, and Kimoto said it hoped that in the event of a buyback, licences would be put in a trust – or a licensing bank – so they could be accessible to future generations when stocks improve.

“We’re discouraged because the federal government doesn’t seem to have a vision promoting fisheries on the West Coast and supporting it,” says Irving.

COMPENSATION MONEY

Included in the compensation or mitigation money from the 2009 treaty is $500,000 which was earmarked for economic development strategies in affected communities.

Irving says they are still in discussions on how to use the money most effectively.

According to a DFO media release, applications were mailed at the end of December to invite commercial salmon troll license holders to submit bids to the department for permanent retirement of licenses.

The first round of the license buyback is directed at the Area G West Coast commercial troll fishery. A second round in early March will be for all commercial troll licence holders (Areas F, G, H).

Source: http://www2.canada.com/
Yasmin Aboelsaud, Westerly Contributor

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