Fishers Need MORE Access to Salmon

Most fishers and smaller processors are hard working, trustworthy people.

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

They are also, for the most part, friendly. Fishers have a lot in common with farmers who have also suffered similar economic fate at the hands of large corporations and government.

Independent fishers need more access to wild BC salmon, not less!

Marketing councils work in partnership with large processors that in a good season scoops up millions of tons of wild BC salmon to boil, can, and sell in Europe at premium prices and high profit.

The work with private contractors to win grants that allow them to promote canned wild BC Salmon in Europe under a Canadian banner even though independent British Columbian fishers provide a large portion of the funds to get the ball rolling.

BC wild salmon is promoted as Canadian salmon in Europe regardless of the fact that BC is now the only province where wild salmon is commercially captured. The East Coast commercial wild salmon fishery collapsed a long time ago. The only commercial salmon the East has left is Atlantic FARMED salmon.

Today, if you capture and sell wild salmon, it comes from the West Coast, but because of restrictive clauses in grant agreements, it CANNOT be promoted in Europe as a BC food product, which is detrimental to independent BC salmon fishers.

Back in the day, when wild BC salmon stocks were healthy, global sales strategies and restrictions like this were reluctantly acceptable. Today however, now that wild BC salmon stocks are seriously depleted, some strains even extinct, it makes no sense to seine net salmon like it was 1950 and churn it into SPAMon that sells at an artificially inflated price to an uneducated foreign market. Europeans and Asians have little idea some strains of BC wild salmon are extinct.

If such a large volume of wild BC salmon wasn’t being shipped off to Europe and China there would be more fish left in local waters for independent fishers to capture. The absolute biggest complaint independent BC salmon fishers have is that the DFO restricts their capture quotas because the government claims salmon stocks are under too much pressure. It’s the same government that partners with large processors that sell millions of tons of canned salmon in Europe at premium prices and high margin.

Today, it makes better sense, from a sustainability and marketing perspective, to invest more research and development in FRESH and FRESH FROZEN wild BC salmon, a seafood product that when promoted properly, raises the perceived value of Canada’s iconic fish and puts more of it in the local and national market at an affordable price. As good as lobster tastes, and as much as we all love it, remember, wild salmon is a much more nutritious food choice than lobster slathered in butter. Fresh and fresh frozen wild BC salmon is rich in Omega-3 and a heart-healthy food source for kids and seniors alike.

Large processors, whose capital investment and infrastructure are primarily modeled on old school canning, can’t generate the same profit margin on fresh or fresh frozen salmon, so even though fresh is good for the health of salmon stocks and local consumers, it’s not a product line large processors are interested in developing. Profit is paramount and everything else takes a back seat. Decades ago, when Canada had healthy salmon stocks, few people were concerned about who was profiting and by how much, but today sustainability issues are radically different, as reported by the Cohen Commission.

Today, for consumers, it makes more sense to only eat wild salmon that has been minimally processed so it retains all its natural goodness. Eating higher quality fresh and fresh frozen wild salmon means you can eat less and receive more heath benefits, which translates into more people having access at a cost effective price point. It’s the responsible and common sense thing to do.

When you’re talking about a wild, potentially non-renewable living food source which in part is a result of fishing pressure, climate change, and pollution, it’s unethical to allow profit to undermine the sustainability of such a valuable keystone fish.

Wild BC salmon is a living creature, not a billboard ad, or a car.

If you agree or disagree with info in this series we’d like to hear your opinion,
but we reserve the sole right to moderate just like everyone else who owns a blog.

If you’d like to comment we prefer you use your real name,
but if you need to hide your identity you can comment anonymously.

Please make sure your comments are on topic, not slanderous or libelous,
and that you can prove what you say. No ad hominem attacks on people either,
which means stick to business and don’t make it personal.

So … here’s your opportunity! Take a moment and share your thoughts.

Why the Rich are Freaking Out

Click to read Part 1 of this 4 Part seriesBC Salmon Fishers Made Scapegoats

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. Regulations 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 . . .

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 . . .

Get Your PINK On!

Get Your PINK On!

The 2013 Pink Salmon Festival was held in Vancouver/Kits at Hadden Park overlooking English Bay on the Pacific Ocean.

A good time and great food was had by all on a very pleasant sunny day, but unfortunately attendance was considerably shy of what promoters, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, expected and had planned.

British Columbia has been promoting PINK salmon for a number of years in an effort to take pressure off wild BC sockeye, which are experiencing serious decline in many BC rivers, including the Fraser and Skeena.

A push has been on for a number of years to help the public become familiar with PINK salmon, and to encourage them to choose it more often at grocers and restaurants.

Pink are a little drier than sockeye, and they have a more delicate taste. Cooking it is similar to other types of salmon, but it can be a little tricky and easily overcooked because it doesn’t contain as much oil.

A number of expert chefs like Robert Clark were on hand to BBQ the PINKS, and show everyone how to get the best results from this fabulous fish. BTW, Rob is getting ready to open his new retail outlet,

Canfisco, more recognizable as, supplied about 1,600 pounds of PINKS, but because of the lower than expected turnout, about 650 pounds were donated the next day to the Union Gospel Mission to feed the homeless.

When you consider top chefs were serving up incredible PINK PLATES and the cost was BY DONATION! it’s surprising more people didn’t attend.

Seafood industry leaders really need to take a close look at their promotion strategies and also their PR reputations to figure out what they are doing wrong. promoters knocked it out of the park, and it’s definitely not the food … so what’s the problem?

All in all, it was a fun family time for everyone who showed up.

Think PINK!



Canned Salmon Not Sustainable

If we continue to commercially can wild salmon at current rates Pacific salmon will soon go the way of the Atlantic cod, beaver, and buffalo.

I’ve eaten canned salmon since I was a kid, and still do and love it, but technology

now makes this old processing chestnut from the era of salting a thing of the past.

Wild salmon no longer needs to be subjected to such a high volume of over-processing when we have modern methods of getting fresh and fresh frozen salmon to consumers at an affordable price.

What food product do you know tastes good or is as healthy to eat when it comes out of a can – canned chicken, canned spaghetti, canned shrimp, canned corn? Canning depletes nutrients and often only becomes palatable when you soak it in salt. Canning salmon at current volumes also infers it is a staple. Should a living creature with such a tenuous survival rate be considered an everyday food source, or instead should it be cherished and savoured?

Canadian canning companies have little interest in developing a fresh or fresh frozen market, and instead concentrate on very high margin cans targeted for Europe. Cans are highly profitable compared to fresh wild salmon.

Canning salmon is an old world throwback that in our modern world diminishes perceived value in consumers’ minds. Thousands of fish-related jobs are also lost because less workers are needed at automated canning companies, of which there is basically only one big one in Canada.

Commercially canned salmon is a double edged sword because it not only reduces the heritage fishing fleet, it also sells short the perceived value of wild BC salmon in foreign markets.

Instead of managing wild salmon stocks respectfully, large processors feel little guilt about jamming the majestic sockeye into a can and sending it half way around the world where consumers have no idea where it came from and the important role it plays as a keystone species. Wild BC salmon doesn’t just feed people, it provides sustenance and nutrients for well over one hundred other animals and plants along the North Pacific coast and rivers.

In a good year Canadian processors jam into cans approximately 10 million pounds of wild salmon, over one third of the landed weight. If these processors canned less, and instead developed more efficient ways to promote and distribute fresh and fresh frozen, a larger portion of our wonderful BC salmon would land on summer BBQ’s and show up year round on dinner plates at a more affordable price.

Commercial fishers would make a respectable living, recreational fishers would have more access, and stocks would rebound because we could leave more salmon in the rivers to spawn.

There is a place for premium canned wild salmon, but we have to quit commercially canning so much sockeye for global markets, and instead make available more fresh and fresh frozen wild salmon for North Americans.