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Commentaries and editorials

Report says Canadian Salmon Industry
in Danger of Collapse

by Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - May 6, 2004

VICTORIA, British Columbia -- Canada's west coast salmon industry is in danger of collapse, according to a report released by Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan.

At a dockside news conference viewed by owners and crew members from nearby fishing boats, Regan said Wednesday the commercial, recreational and Indian sectors need a major overhaul to survive.

"Low market prices, shifting abundance, conservation constraints and new harvest restrictions to protect endangered species have eroded profitability," he said. "The report warns that these problems have collectively brought the commercial salmon industry to the brink of bankruptcy."

The report was prepared by academics Peter Pearse and Donald McRae, who were chosen in July 2003 by the Canadian and British Columbia governments to recommend changes for that would provide greater certainty for all sectors of the industry.

"The time for tinkering is past," they wrote. "Action must be taken across the range of recommendations we have made. Reform has to be complete, not partial."

The report includes recommendations ranging from 25-year quota licenses for individual fishermen to assuring Indians up to one-third of the annual harvest of sockeye, the backbone of the province's commercial salmon industry.

"While the report provides a sobering message, it also provides some optimism that the future can be brighter if reforms are implemented," Regan said.

He said he would consult with industry stakeholders deciding this fall on what steps to take.

Eric Kristianson, a spokesman for of the Sport Fishing Institute, said the quota proposal could hamstring British Columbia's profitable recreational fishing industry in an effort to aid the ailing commercial sector.

"The proposal is that they would place a cap on the amount of fish that is available to the recreational sector, which means that in the future it constrains our ability to expand the fishery," Kristianson said.

The recreational fishing industry generates $600 million (US$438 million) in economic activity a year, while the commercial side takes 80 percent of the catch and produces about $42 million (US$30.1 million) in landed value, he said.

A spokesman for a commercial fishing organization that monitors the Indian fishery said the recommendations could protect and enhance the salmon fishery.

"Salmon is in trouble," said Phil Eidsvik of the Fisheries Survival Coalition. "This could be an improvement if it's done properly, but it's going to take very careful management by the province and feds as the process goes forward."

Indian leaders did not attend the press conference, but Ed John, a spokesman for the First Nations Summit, the largest aboriginal organization in British Columbia, said the group would submit its own fish report to the Canadian government soon.

John said any government proposal for quotas would be viewed by Indians with skepticism "mostly because it's left the aboriginal communities out of that system" in the past.

Associated Press
Report says Canadian Salmon Industry in Danger of Collapse
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 6, 2004

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