Halibut Fishermen Accuse Global News of Irresponsible Journalism

BC Halibut Fishermen Accuse Global News of Irresponsible Journalism – “Global NEWS’ May 5th reporting on Canada’s Pacific commercial halibut fishery was irresponsible fake news, says Chris Sporer, Executive Manager of the Pacific Halibut Management Association of BC (PHMA), an organization representing commercial halibut fishermen in the province.

“Global NEWS made no attempt to contact the industry or to get the facts, and then used stock video footage that has nothing to do with our fishery,” notes Sporer.

The Global NEWS report was prompted by an Oceana Canada report on bycatch in Canada’s commercial fisheries. PHMA and its members disagree with the conclusions of the report. For the BC halibut fishery, the Oceana Canada report relied on a data set that is a decade old and incomplete. As a result, the data could not be fully analyzed and is misinterpreted.

The Pacific halibut fishery (and all Pacific commercial groundfish fisheries) operates under a management regime that requires full accountability of all fish caught and employs a world class catch accounting system. Commercial halibut fishermen already do all the things recommended in the Oceana Canada report:

We have 100% at sea monitoring and 100% dockside monitoring and logbooks; every vessel accounts for all its catch, whether retained or released.

Specific measures are in the Integrated Fisheries Management Plan to ensure vessels adhere to strict conservation limits for all species, all enforced by licence conditions.

We are world leaders in managing all species caught (retained and released); setting international best practices not simply following them.

All catch data, retained or released, is reported by management area for each commercial groundfish fishery, ensuring cumulative impacts are taken into account. Further, catch data for the major species are posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website and updated daily.

Oceana Canada also states the BC commercial halibut fishery is catching Basking sharks. However, the report fails to acknowledge there are explicit management measures in place in the fishery relating to Basking shark. Fisheries and Oceans Canada data shows that over a six year period just four Basking sharks were encountered in the BC halibut fishery and released, while at the same time the fleet harvested approximately 49,000,000 pounds of halibut to provide food to Canada and the world.

Halibut have been harvested commercially off the Pacific coast of Canada since the late 1880’s. The fishery is a small boat fishery – most vessels are in the 36-45 foot range – dominated by small, family-owned businesses from all areas of the BC coast. It was the first fishery in BC to receive the globally-recognized Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification – the gold standard for independent, third-party eco-certification – which automatically puts it in the top 10% of global fisheries. The MSC acknowledges Canada’s Pacific Commercial halibut fishery’s catch accounting system “is one of the most rigorous in the world.” BC halibut is also recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium’s Oceanwise Program, the SeaChoice Program and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Over the past 25 years BC commercial halibut fishermen have invested in conservation and sustainability to create a fishery that has been described by the David Suzuki Foundation as “one of the high bar examples in the world of how a multi-species longline fishery should be conducted.”

“We are disappointed with the Oceana Canada report. We think Oceana Canada can bring a lot to the fisheries discussion and debate in Canada,” say Lyle Pierce, master and owner of the commercial halibut vessel Bold Pursuit and PHMA President, “however, we wish they would have taken a more collaborative approach and reached out to us to ensure they fully understood our fishery, how it is managed and monitored and how to interpret the data.”

PHMA invites Oceana Canada researchers, and Global NEWS reporters, to come out to the Pacific coast and go out on a fishing trip on a commercial halibut vessel to see firsthand how our sustainable fishery is managed and monitored.

Pacific Halibut Management Association of BC

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