Your Skipper Otto’s membership dollars made it possible for Doug Kostering to get out fishing for halibut this month! Read on for the incredible story of how difficult independent halibut fishing is and how the CSF model is making big change for one ‘Namgis nation fisherman.
As you may know, the halibut season opened in March and we expected to have halibut for our members many months ago. But navigating the complexities of the quota halibut fishery have proved incredibly challenging. Last year, our previous halibut fisherman, Duncan Cameron, walked away from halibut fishing to focus on crabbing because of all the challenges in trying to fish halibut independently. For a bit of context, read last fall’s halibut blog on why we expected not to have any halibut last year and this October newsletter when we first met Doug and offered his last catch of his 2016 catch to our members.
Policy Makes Independence Nearly Impossible
Unlike in the rest of Canada and on the pacific coast of the US, BC fishing licenses and quotas can be bought and sold by Canadian or foreign corporations and then leased back to fishermen at prices that make fishing nearly impossible. Read all about it in this letter to Fisheries Minister Ian LeBlanc encouraging the Federal government to keep their election promise to ensure “fishing licenses and quotas [are] held primarily by those who fish and their communities, and prevent them from becoming a speculative asset.”
Meanwhile, the lease price of halibut quota rises sharply every year as those quotas are bought and sold as an investment commodity. Fishermen must pay these steep lease prices and are also forced to sell their halibut back to the lease holder at predetermined prices, often times leaving the fisherman with as little as $1/lb after paying for the lease. With that $1/ lb, they must pay their fuel, crew, monitoring costs, equipment, boat maintenance, insurance, and more before paying themselves. As you can imagine, this makes halibut fishing a nearly impossible economic proposition for an independent fisherman.
As a First Nations fisherman, Doug has the option to lease quota from his band. His band only takes a percentage of what he is paid, making it possible for Doug to make a living. However, because there are so few independent halibut fishermen left, many of the remaining regulations are still extremely difficult to navigate.
Steep Monitoring Costs
One of these challenges is around monitoring costs. Halibut fishermen are required to run monitoring cameras aboard their vessels the entire time they are fishing, and then pay a monitoring company to view this footage to confirm rules are being followed. Each camera costs $10,000 in addition to the cost of installation and monitoring the footage — an enormous chunk of a fisherman’s annual salary if they can even access this kind of money. Alternatively, fishermen can lease cameras by the day, but they can’t afford to lose thousands of dollars if they lease the camera, get blown out by a storm, and aren’t able to fish that day! Let alone the fact that they always end up paying extra for installation and removal of the camera after each trip.
Doug Kostering is a multi-genrational ‘Namgis nation fisherman from Alert Bay, BC, who started fishing as a kid in the 1960’s with his grandfather and has fished ever since. In 2015, Doug was badly injured in a car accident and has struggled to get back into fishing. This has been a difficult couple of years for Doug physically, emotionally, and financially. Now that Doug is largely recovered from his concussion, he’s back on his feet and physically able to fish full days. But the financial set back has made it very hard for him to take on the monitoring costs to get himself back up and running.
Skipper Otto’s Members Get Doug Back in the Game!
Because our members pre-purchase their fish, we were able to use your dollars to purchase the monitoring camera for Doug and get it installed on his boat. This means that Doug was able to get out fishing this week and provided the first halibut of the year at a price that’s fair for both Doug and for our members. With his fishing income, we expect Doug will be able to purchase the camera off us by the end of the season, giving him fishing independence for many years to come! We’re so proud of the impact your CSF dollars are having on Doug’s life and on the lives of all our fishing families!