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.

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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 . . .

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!