January 15, 2004


I: Introduction

1. Member organizations of the BC Seafood Alliance (BCSA) represent both First Nations and non-First Nations investors in the commercial seafood industry in BC. Collectively, they account for about 90 per cent of the capture seafood produced in British Columbia. The Alliance understands and accepts that there will be increased access to fisheries and marine resources for First Nations both inside and outside the treaty process. This transfer of access must take place fairly and equitably in a way that assures both conservation and economic viability. Policies to date are moving us towards an industry that is not sustainable, not competitive, and not profitable for any operator, First Nations or otherwise.

2. The BCSA has four key principles to guide development of the seafood industry: conservation, sustainable management, secure access, and market responsiveness. Long-term uncertainty is currently a significant deterrent to investment in the development of sustainable seafood resources in BC. Governments must ensure certainty of access as well as a responsive and progressive regulatory and policy environment in all aspects of seafood production otherwise the sector will not be able to meet the demands of the global seafood market. Our vision for a modern seafood industry in BC calls for

a) a positive business climate for all seafood businesses in BC—First Nations or otherwise—that encourages investment in future development. This requires greater security of access and implementation of policies that ensure any new access to capture fisheries be retired with fair market compensation out of existing fishery access; and

b) an industry that can count on government to ensure that all commercial interests in the British Columbia seafood sector are regulated by a non-discriminatory, consistent and uniform management and legislative framework that does not create unfair advantages for some businesses over others.

Without these pre-conditions, no seafood industry (whether predominantly First Nations or not) can thrive.

3 Governments need to have a vision of what the fishery will look like post-treaty. Without a plan, the end result will be a patchwork of separate fisheries, each regulated differently, with inconsistent conservation, licencing, gear, harvesting, monitoring, food safety, inspection and regulatory requirements. This balkanization of commercial fisheries would cripple monitoring and enforcement, jeopardize conservation, destroy the economic wealth the fishery can provide, and make it impossible to meet the demand of domestic and international consumers for safe, quality, environmentally sustainable seafood from BC.

4. The principles established should apply, no matter who harvests the resource. The perception that the debate over fisheries rights is between First Nations and other Canadians has not been helpful. We offer two examples. First, under current policies, even a 100 per cent transfer of allocation of Fraser River sockeye to First Nations would not solve any of the management problems associated with this fishery. Second, the spawn on kelp fishery, which is 85 per cent First Nations, has suffered from exactly the same issues as we raise here—the lack of a level playing field and different applications of conservation, management, and cost-recovery requirements.

II: Overarching Principles for Fisheries Treaty Settlements

1. Negotiations over allocation, within the treaty process or outside, must take place in the context of a clearly articulated vision for commercial fisheries in the future.

2. This vision must be based on the market economy. Otherwise participants in the fishery will not have sufficient opportunity to make a reasonable living from it and British Columbians will lose the opportunity for the fishery to be an important contributor to the provincial economy. Experiences on the east coast have shown us what happens when the focus is on social engineering rather than the needs of the market.

3. Settlements must conform to the “good neighbour” principle, seeking win/win solutions where the entire industry will be better off rather than disadvantaging one group of licence holders in favour of another.

4. The commercial fishery should not bear the costs and burden of treaty settlements. Any obligation to provide increased access for First Nations should not be borne by the existing industry (First Nations or other Canadians) or by First Nations bands and communities, but by all Canadians equitably.

III: Principles for Fisheries Treaty Settlements: Commercial Component

1. Ensure sustainable fisheries for all participants.

2. Ensure a level playing field for all participants. This means that commercial harvesting for a species or group of species must operate under the same terms, conditions, rules and policies.

3. Equal security of access for all participants with access to the resource gained through the commercial licencing system, and every licence within a fishing category subject to identical opportunities and obligations. If one group of participants is permitted a 25-year, renewable licence, then that option must be available to all participants.

4. All participants must contribute equitably to co-management and cost-recovery.

5. All fisheries must be monitored with participants in any fishery subject to exactly the same monitoring requirements and standards.

6. Where increased First Nations’ participation is contemplated, existing commercial fishing licences and/or quota must be the sole means of access. Transfers should be achieved by purchase of existing licences and/or quota within a fishery on a “willing buyer-willing seller” basis. De facto transfer of resources for commercial purposes cannot be allowed as this erodes the viability and security of commercially licenced participants.

7. All commercial licence categories should be eligible for buyout.

8. All fish caught under commercial authority must be identifiable by an appropriate mechanism as commercial immediately after harvest and throughout transportation and storage to point of sale. This is in line with new international requirements for traceability of seafood.

9. A commercial component cannot be part of a treaty-protected right. Unlike FSC, harvest agreements must be external to the treaty.

10. Arrangements for access to new, limited entry fisheries should be sufficiently flexible to enable the development of an effective, profitable, market-driven fishery.

IV: Principles for Fisheries Treaty Settlements: Food, Social and Ceremonial Component

1. FSC fish should be used for food, social and ceremonial purposes in accordance with Canadian law in order to ensure First Nations community needs are adequately met.

2. Food fish quantities to be based on legitimate FSC requirements for band members.

3. Any increase in FSC over and above current levels must be bought out from the commercial fishery and transferred to the First Nation. This principle also applies to access to species non-integral to pre-contact.

4. FSC fish to be independently monitored, reported to DFO, and identified as FSC fish by an appropriate mechanism immediately after harvest and throughout transportation and storage.

5. No fishing for FSC and commercial or recreational purposes at the same time with the same vessel unless the comprehensive monitoring and reporting mechanisms are in place and enforced.

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