Halibut experimental recreational fishery 2019 - Pacific Region

Questions and answers

What is the purpose of the experimental halibut fishery and what is being tested?

The experimental halibut fishery will test a market-based mechanism that allows an experimental licence holder to acquire additional halibut quota from the commercial sector to fish for recreational purposes, and to test enhanced catch monitoring of such a fishery.

How will this experimental fishery work?

In addition to the regular tidal water sport fishing licence, recreational harvesters can obtain an experimental licence, on a voluntary basis, that will allow the licence holder to lease halibut quota from commercial harvesters, thereby giving them certainty for business planning purposes. The additional quota associated with the experimental licence will allow individual recreational harvesters to fish beyond the current limits of a standard recreational license, up to the amount of additional quota acquired on the experimental licence.  The experimental fishery will commence on April 1, 2019 and will be available until December 31, 2019.

The experimental licence will be subject to terms and conditions, which include enhanced monitoring requirements for participants. Through the implementation of this trial experimental fishery, Fisheries and Oceans Canada will work with stakeholders to set out the monitoring conditions.

How will recreational harvesters be able to access commercial quota? How will they be able to find commercial harvesters willing to sell quota?

The Department will work with participants in the experimental program to direct them to the appropriate information. Fisheries and Oceans Canada annually publishes a list of 435 commercial halibut licence holders, including the person or company that holds the license and quota. In addition, quota brokers exist for groundfish fisheries that can assist recreational harvesters in accessing quota.

How much will it cost recreational harvesters to purchase additional quota? Will there be a limit on how much quota the recreational sector can purchase?

Recreational harvesters will have access to 15 per cent of the Canadian total allowable catch through the standard recreational fishery. There is no cost for the issuance of the experimental license. The experimental licence will provide a market-based transfer mechanism for acquiring additional quota, operated through a willing buyer and willing seller arrangement. Transactions will occur directly between the buyer and seller, and costs associated with the additional quota would be based on market value and be paid for by the recreational experimental licence holder. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for tracking the transfer of quota from one licence to another through its quota management system.

Is the Department concerned about commercial licence holders leasing out their quota without actually fishing?

In 2006, the Department implemented the Commercial Groundfish Integration Program, which required that all commercial groundfish harvesters be accountable for their target and incidental catch. The ability to transfer quota makes individual commercial groundfish harvesters responsible for all of their catch by transferring target and non-target quotas amongst themselves. This market-based transfer allows the catch of commercial groundfish species to remain within the prescribed conservation limits while also providing for an economically viable fishery. As such, the ability to self-adjust within the fishery is critical to ensuring its long-term sustainability. Furthermore, the transferability of quota allows for new entrants to actively participate in the fishery without the initial high investment costs associated with the purchase of a commercial halibut licence and quota.

How will the experimental fishery affect the standard recreational fishery?

The experimental fishery is voluntary and will exist in addition to the standard recreational fishery. The experimental fishery will not affect the standard recreational fishery. The Department is responsible for ensuring that Canada stays within the domestic total allowable catch set by the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and fisheries will be monitored in-season to ensure they remain within their respective allocations.

What will the Department do with the results of the experimental licence initiative?

The Department will closely monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches being tested in this experimental fishery, including monitoring methods and transfer mechanisms—both of which will provide input into options for the long-term management of the fishery.

How do I apply for an experimental licence?

An expression of interest and other relevant information is available on Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Halibut Experimental Recreational Fishery.

Will First Nations be affected by the new experimental recreational fishery? Will they be consulted about the long-term management of the Pacific halibut fishery?

The experimental recreational fishery will not affect First Nations access to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes, which will continue to be considered before the Canadian total allowable catch (as determined by the International Pacific Halibut Commission) is distributed between commercial and recreational harvesters.

Approximately 18 per cent of the commercial halibut total allowable catch allocation is designated to First Nations bands and tribal councils; this will also not be affected by the experimental recreational fishery. This allocation is made available to First Nations through the Allocation Transfer Program and the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, two programs that are in place to achieve environmentally sustainable and economically viable commercial fisheries where First Nations' aspirations are supported.

First Nations will be able to apply for an experimental recreational licence under the same terms and conditions that apply to other recreational users.

What is the minimum amount of quota required to be on a licence to participate in the Experimental Recreational Halibut Fishery?

For 2019, in order to begin fishing under the authority of an experimental recreational licence, the minimum quota required on your licence is 20 pounds.