BC Fishers Struggling

Pawns in an Ocean of Kings

Part 1 in this 4 part series – 

Some of the hardest working people in Canada, BC salmon fishers, are struggling more than ever. The future is challenging for all sectors.

BC’s independent commercial wild salmon fishers are being leveraged by a passive-aggressive, hiding-in-plain-sight group that knows how to manage regulations and win grants. The disparity causes a divide. The infighting hurts not only fishers, but also the health of wild salmon stocks in British Columbia, and ultimately seafood consumers.

Many people believe Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper is selling out wild BC salmon for Albertan oil one stream at a time. Enbridge is hard to resist for obvious reasons. The surprising part however is that Harper has experienced almost zero opposition from the wild salmon industry.

Some in the seafood industry are vocal and against the pipeline, but it’s primarily backroom chatter from commercial and sport fishers, and a few smaller processors as well. It’s mostly talk without action, except of course from First Nations who are poised to go to war. While FN leaders present viable arguments and objections, non-native fishers and smaller processors, who are almost tapped out financially and emotionally, cross their fingers hoping someone else will do the heavy lifting. The reality though is that if salmon stocks and fisheries are to be protected, everyone has to pull together through organizations like the BC Salmon Marketing Council.

Canadian governments award grant money by the boatload to wild salmon organizations like the BCSMC. The Council works in partnership with large processors, who, based on their competitive business model, have great economic incentive to manage  independent fishers and smaller processors in ways that serve their purposes. It makes economic sense for large processors to own their own salmon fishing boats, which on the surface isn’t a bad thing, however, large processors, who are focused primarily on profit, pay the captains and crews working the boats little more than subsistence wages. Something has to change.

The days of proud independent BC salmon fishers owning their own boats and selling their catch to a variety of competitive processors at a fair price are vanishing.

Canadians who worry about buying free trade coffee should be more concerned about free trade wild salmon. It’s a challenge for a long list of reasons, one of which is that it is independent fishers and smaller processors who work hard to ensure wild salmon stocks remain healthy.

It’s also important to note that big processors can, and do, process FARMED salmon and other types of seafood. Consequently, they have much less to lose when wild salmon stocks become depleted. When salmon stocks become extinct, as some already have in BC, independent salmon fishers stand to lose the most because large processors simply gravitate to selling other seafood products. Refitting a salmon boat for another type of fish and trying to acquire a license is an expensive proposition for captains already in dire financial straits.


Click here to read Part 2 in this 4 part series . . .

8 thoughts on “BC Fishers Struggling”

  1. Glenn H. says:

    I’ve been puzzled about why fishermen have not spoken out more about protecting rivers and streams from the construction of an oil pipeline stretching from Alberta to the BC coast. Fishermen seem to have the most to lose, but also seem to be eerily quiet.

    If salmon fishermen don’t care, it makes it harder for anyone else to.

    From my understanding, if Enbridge builds the pipeline they will have to cross hundreds and maybe thousands of rivers and streams, and each time they do it will dump substantial silt in the waterways which will have a serious impact on salmon, especially during spawning season. In addition to destroying spawning beds, all that silt will raise the temperature of the water, which is already getting too warm for salmon.

    Fishers should be concerned about this and let the government know the pipeline will have a devastating and irreversible impact for many years to come. It could be the last nail in the coffin for some species and strains of wild BC salmon.

  2. Pete says:

    What a load of crap. If it wasn’t for Jimmy most of us would be out of work. You gotta do what you gotta do to feed your family today, and not worry about tomorrow. Something is better than nothing. It might not be fair, but thats how it is. It’s not up to Jimmy or me to protect salmon. Its what government and the DFO is for.

    • Bart Samus says:

      That’s the wrong attitude Peter.

      If you’re a fisherman you have a responsibility to do the right thing.

      Once the salmon are gone, they won’t come back, which means you’re out of work. You need to go back and read this article. It makes perfect sense.

      I don’t fully agree fishermen are being played for fools. I think they are frustrated and don’t know what to do.


  3. John H says:

    I’ve been complaining about this for years, but no one listens. Fishermen pay all this money but we don’t get nothing in return. The government spend too much supporting farmed salmon, which to me is a garbage fish, and not nearly enough helping BC salomn fishermen.

    I never really thought much about the connection between oil and the pipeline and how biulding it will harm salmon spawning beds, but it makes sense. Surprised that the BC Seafood Alliance and BCSMC havn’t been educatiing fisherman and consumers about this problem. Where is our money going? This totally pisses me off.

  4. Robert Bolsover Campbell River says:

    Where can I find an explanation of this stuff on the BC Salmon Marketing website? http://www.bcsalmon.ca/Community/Council.html I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find it. Thanks.

    • Wild Salmon Cove says:

      You can’t find it on the BSCMC site Robert because info like that is not on it. You need to email or call them.

      BTW, the list of directors listed on the link in your message is really old. Some of the directors resigned long ago.

  5. kim olsen says:

    I would not count on the seafood alliance. It is an organization that claims to represent 90% of fishermen on the BC coast that is WRONG!! it is an organization that represents Processors and large Quota holders ONLY!
    The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union UFAWU-Unifor. was an intervenor against Enbridge and has fought long and hard for the rights of Fishermen Shore-workers and has fought many many battles to protect our environment and fish stocks on the BC coast.
    If unity is sought for fishermen join the UFAWU as it is still battling Canfisco, DFO, and politicians to try and ensure that independent commercial fishermen and our coastal communities thrive and prosper long into the future.
    The Union NOT about catching the last fish! without fish we have no jobs or industry, the union is about fishing sustainably as owner operators and are striving to get fleet separation policies from our federal government.

  6. Wild Salmon Cove says:

    Unfortunately indie fishers have been underrepresented for a very long time.

    Fishers should demand that the BCSMC hold regular bi-annual meetings in their jurisdictions and at a time when fishers can attend to expresses their opinions and concerns. It’s fisher’s money and you should have a say in how it is spent. In fact that’s the way the government set it up over twenty years ago, but somewhere along the line processors took control and everyone forgot about the fishers.

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