Monday, November 9, 2015

Alaska Fishery predictions highlight challenges ahead for new Federal Fisheries Minister

Fisheries Minister
Hunter Tootoo will
have issues of the
Pacific Fishery to consider

(Gov't of Canada photo)
As Federal Cabinet Minister Hunter Tootoo settles into his new duties as Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, those that fish the North Coast will be looking to see what approach the new Liberal government may have in mind when it comes to the issues that continue to impact on the fishing industry on the Pacific coast.

Just this week, more concerns were noted about the salmon fishery in the province with concerning statistics released about the Adams run,  which like the Fraser and Skeena is considered a barometer as to the health of the sockeye returns and the species in British Columbia.

For the commercial fleet and area First Nations that rely on the fishery for not only their occupations but in the case of the First Nations as part of their culture, the numbers in recent years have indicated some concerns over the fishery in BC.

A near constant situation which has seen reduced catch limits and with those decisions, seen a reduction in employment numbers for those that depend on it.

In early November, the Globe and Mail outlined the nature of the BC results from 2015, which was described as another "troublesome year" for the Pacific fishery.

The situation in British Columbia is a particularly interesting one when you review the story coming out of Alaska in recent years, which continue to find a strong fishery for a good portion of the state.

Another season of good Salmon
returns is anticipated for Alaska's
Bristol Bay
Last week, a new study from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimated that between 36 and 56 million sockeye will return to Bristol Bay next summer.

While those figures are less than the numbers from 2015, it still suggests that impressive returns will be part of the forecast for the Bristol Bay fishery in the year ahead.

Those near record numbers may provide some relief for those that work at the large Canadian Fish Plant on  George Hills Way, in years past, a good portion of the work at the plant has involved the processing of some of that Bristol Bay run.

An employment bonus that is good for shore workers locally, but one that might deflect attention away from the growing issues facing the local fleet, which has remained tied up longer and longer than in years of the past.

The challenge for the new Federal Minister, will be to try and develop policies that can provide all of the BC stakeholders with something to build on for the years ahead, something that DFO has struggled with in the last number of years.

With a large portion of the region still linked into the fishery in one way or another, how Mr. Tootoo addresses those issues will provide the measuring stick for how he fares compared to those Ministers of the past years, an alumni that didn't particularly make much of an impression on the North Coast.

For more items related to the North Coast Fishery see our archive page here.

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