Salmon Levies Grew the Industry

Part 3 in this 4 part series – BC Fishers Made Scapegoats

In BC, all salmon fishers are required by the provincial government to pay a levy for each pound of fish they capture and deliver to processors big and small, or sell directly from their boats.

Processors, referred to as first buyers, are legally mandated and required to collect this tax on behalf of the BC Salmon Marking Council, and the Council is mandated to manage and use the money to improve and promote the wild salmon industry at home and around the world on behalf of the BC provincial government. It’s a complex circle of loopholes that even experienced industry pros have a very hard time following.

Over the last decade or so, when BC banks and credit unions quit lending money to independent fishers, opportunistic processors stepped in to provide funds and capitalize on a weak system. A desperate fisher who had a slow year and was about to lose his or her boat and livelihood had little choice but to go to large companies. On the surface it sounded like a good idea, but unfortunately it is too incestuous and poorly regulated.

In order to foster a healthy industry, a producer should not be a supplier’s direct competitor. It’s economics 101. Seafood processors should only compete with other processors, and fishers only with other fishers. When the free market paradigm shifts, as it has here, where one processor controls the aggregation of a large portion of the supply, as well as every production step along the chain right down to the ice for boat holds, it evolves into a monopoly that cultivates a propensity for wholesale price fixing, which is not healthy for any industry, and in this case especially, for already depleted salmon stocks.

It becomes troublesome when a considerable portion of the levy that small salmon fishers are required to pay is used by large processors to apply for grants that primarily benefit only large processors.

At international seafood shows, sales profit derived as a result of show promotion goes to large processors and brokers, and it is not shared proportionately with, or does it benefit independent fishers and smaller processors. Theoretically, it’s supposed to be an equitable exercise for the BC salmon industry overall, but practically it is impossible for it to roll out that way. Plus, there is another hidden layer that allows for an additional round of grant funding that promotes only canned salmon in Europe. Selling canned salmon in Europe does little for the independent salmon troller and gillnetter who pay a sizeable proportion of levies. It actually hurts this group as well as smaller processors who buy their salmon.

The Council is the “intermediary” that makes the grant application process possible.┬áRegulations state that grant applications must be applied for and administered through a neutral organization like the BCSMC. Theoretically, it’s a democratic system designed to help everyone big and small. Practically though, it started out great twenty-five or so years ago, but it never kept up with the times. Fisheries need to be reinvented from the top down and improvements made that serve everyone equitably, including and especially our oceans and fish species.

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

4 thoughts on “Salmon Levies Grew the Industry”

  1. No Name says:

    I’m one of those fishers that had no choice but to go to a procesor for first a small loan and then eventualy a mortgage on my seiner.

    I tried the Fishermen’s Credit Union and all the major banks, but quite a few years ago they told me they were getting out of lending money to fishers because the industry was so poorly managed. I never had that problem before and always paid my loans back on time.

    I had two bad seasons in a row and was desparate to feed my family and keep my boat, so I accepted what basicaly was a “loan shark” deal. I didn’t read the contract right, and thought it was like my other loans, but found out later the procesor had control of wheather my boat and crew fished or not. The first season wasn’t so bad because at least we landed a few good sets, but in season two my boat sat idle because they wanted to use only my license. I lost my crew thathad been loyal to me for over a decade.

    I also lost my boat the next year and now my son and I do construction and landscaping. Thankfully my dad passed before all this happened. It was his boat and license from way back. It was pretty hard on my wife and daughter too.

    I’m pretty sure there a lot of fishermen that were in my position to, but no one talked about it much.

    Anon

  2. m. g. says:

    not sure what your talking about a levy. my family has been commercial fishing out of prince rupert for over two decades and have never paid a levy or a tax to the guys who buy are salmon or to anyone. all this deosn’t make sense to me. do fn fishermen have to pay to?

    • Wild Salmon Cove says:

      Trust me m.g., you’ve paid. The levy system isn’t well managed and some processors slyly include the levy in their landed weight tickets without fishers even knowing.

      When they do it this way it gets buried in the system and first buyers can get away with not reporting the collection to the BCSMC. It the council doesn’t check or ask, the buyer pockets it.

      Sometimes they get caught when a fisher applies to have the levy refunded and the numbers don’t add up, but it’s rare anyone would find it.

      You should contact the BCSMC, maybe you can get a refund, but it’s probably too late for this season.

      Yes, First Nations are required to pay the levy too.

  3. Chris s. says:

    Farmers and fishermen are all in the same boat. We never get respect from the government and over the last decade o so even the public seems to think we’re the bad guys. It costs a lot these days to be a faremer or fisher but unless your in the idustry no one seems to understand the pressures.

    Its frutrating that we are forced to pay levys for salmon but that we don’t get anything for it. I don’t think this is a new problem either. My dad used to compain about it for as far back as I can remember. Caused a lot of family arguments. I often wondered why the big buyers all pay about the same amount per pound.

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