Codfather’s Seafood Market owner, Jonathan Crofts is working hard to change the way the federal government sells fishing licenses and quotas.
Crofts is working alongside fishermen and charities, and is speaking with Members of Parliament to make a real change to preserve the future generation of fishermen.
“To sum it up we want good clean and fair (fish),” said Crofts.
Crofts explained that currently most commercial fishing licenses are owned by large fish distributors or second or third generation fishermen. Right now it is costly for most fishermen to sell their fish to fishmongers such as Crofts and end up selling their fish to larger companies that is often exported from Canada.
“It needs to be sustainable, nutritious and tasty, nothing harmful, no antibiotics and clean for the environment. We need clean fish as well and it needs to be fair,” said Crofts.
Fraser MacDonald, a first-generation commercial fisherman for the last 14 years who works out of False Creel Fishermen’s Wharf and Port Hardy, B.C. addressed the Fisheries Committeee Feb. 5 alongside other fishers to speak to them about the regulation of West Coast Fisheries.
The group of fishers (not including Crofts on Feb. 5) approached the committee to study the regulation of West Coast fisheries to review the regulatory structure for Individual Fishing Quotas (ITQ) and the individual transferable quota structure. As they believe specifically the way they are transferred has created a commodity out of the licensing itself to investors and corporate interests.
“We have more opportunity to gain more value out of our fish. The way that a lot of bigger seafood buyers are set up is that it is a volume market-based system so that they can make a margin on buying and selling it. If we could challenge the types of processing and selling it to fisheries we are going to be putting the focus on adding value and maintaining value in fish. We will be able to keep local, reduce our carbon footprint and increase the value all the way down the stream from the fishmongers to the good and healthy fish,” said MacDonald.
The fishermen are not asking for an immediate change to the way the ITQs are handed out but rather a long timeline where changes could be scheduled and implemented over the next 10 to 12 years.
In the meeting, Joy Thorkelson, president of United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union reported that fishermen’s earnings are trending down while the The Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union’s (FFAW) incomes are increasing. She cited that the difference is the added costs B.C. fishermen bear, 80 per cent of the landed value in ITQ fisheries is taken out of their pockets. Money that remains in the pockets of East Coast fishermen.
“I have worked for the union for 40 years and I’ve seen many changes in my career. I’m old. In fact, the majority of people in the B.C. fishing industry are old. The industry was very good to participants and we were able to make a great living, so that’s why we all stayed. Now it’s too late to leave with economic dignity,” said Thorkelson in the Feb. 5 meeting.
Both MacDonald and Crofts said that fishing commercially has become a career path of retirees who can afford it and is having trouble attracting a younger generation due to the costs.
“Its becoming increasingly difficult,” said Crofts.
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