Fish has been central to the economy and culture of British Columbia for over a century, and for First Nations, for millennia. British Columbia's commercial fisheries play an important role in global food security, and 85% of Canadian-produced seafood is currently exported.
In 2011, British Columbian seafood was served in approximately two billion meals in 74 countries. Paradoxically, 93% of the seafood available to Canadians is imported. This is a result of fundamental changes to commercial fishing in British Columbia over the past three decades which have affected processing; the retail of gear, ice and bait; mechanics, insurance and accounting.
These changes are driven by regional management and policies that allow unrestricted ownership and unlimited transferability of fishing licenses and quotas which are negatively affecting historical values in the fishing industry. The price that younger harvesters have to pay to purchase quota for commercial fish species has skyrocketed over the last 30 years due to the concentrated ownership by a wealthy few. As a consequence, they are being squeezed out of the market. The Canadian Government is managing Canadian fisheries using policies that result in the privatization of access to fish resources.
Today there are fewer fishermen and less fish landed in small coastal communities, which results in lower incomes in these communities. And if factors like the rising cost of fuel, quotas, gear, repairs and insurances were not enough, small-scale fishers also have to face increased competition for ocean space: wind farms, aquaculture, tourism, marine protected areas, shipping, recreation, shoreline development... all these factors in combination with the rapidly changing ecosystems-decreasing oxygen at depth, ocean acidification, rising water temperatures-and the push toward economic efficiency-larger boats, longer trips, centralized processing, all-weather fishing-have created a domino effect for Canadian coastal communities. Because of both the aggressive bidding by big fishing fleets for quotas and the lack of availability of local fish, prices are driven so high that chefs find it increasingly difficult to put Canadian seafood on their menus. As such, it is harder than ever for seafood purveyors and Canadian citizens to eat good quality local fish.
While the fishing industry is part of Canadian culture and provides a number of job opportunities, its primary purpose is to provide food. Residents of British Columbia have a right to local, sustainable seafood. Moreover, they don't want to see their entire catch disappears overseas.
Slow Fish Canada has launched a campaign in order to help raise awareness of how the Canadian government is managing its fishing grounds for the benefit of large corporate investors, as well as a petition for policy reform of the Fisheries Act.
Canada's fisheries are a common good and because of that, they should be managed for the benefit of Canadians.
Follow the campaign and learn more about Canadian fishing communities.
Support the Slow Fish Canada petition for a policy reform in the Fisheries Act.
SOURCES: Understanding values in Canada's Noth Pacific: Capturing Values from Commercial Fisheries. Kerrie O'Donnell, Taylor Hesselgrave, Eliana Macdonald, Jim McIsaac, Des Nobles,Tasha Sutcliffe, Devlin Fernandes, Brenda Reid-Kuecks. Ecotrust Canada and T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, 2013.