Sunday, August 02, 2009

New comment on commercial subsidies criticism

We thought we would give this comment some more exposure and see if it generates any debate on the management of the fishery.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Local MP concerned with commercial industry":

The problem with your attack on commercial fishermen and subsidies is that you ignore all of the major hidden subsidies that all other industries get: roads, transit, special tax breaks, government handouts of all sorts. The difference with fishing is that most fishermen are hard working people who have tried to accommodate. However, the obvious bias of the commercial sport fishery )which has received numerous handouts and preferential treatment goes on discussed in this blog.

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Paul Holden said...

There are several problems with the reasoning of the person posting the comment on the criticism of commercial subsidies. First, it appears to suggest that because there are other bad subsidies, a bad subsidy to the fishing fleet is justifiable. One difference, though, is that while the sports fishery may enjoy the benefits of a subsidy to roads, it is a tiny minority of the total number of people who use roads. The subsidy to the commercial fishing fleet benefits the commercial fishing industry alone. Furthermore, the subsidy will not turn an industry that is not viable without Government support into one that is healthy. If a subsidy was part of a transition plan to turn around the commercial fishing fleet into one that is profitable, then perhaps it could be justified. However, it is not - it is propping up an industry structure that is not working and delaying the inevitable changes that must occur. There is no doubt that for some, this is a tragedy. But rather then continue a failed policy by maintaining subsidies that have not arrested the long term decline of commercial fishing, measures would be better directed at cushioning the impact of downsizing and modernizing the fishery so that wild stocks of all types of salmonids thrive.

Second, subsidies of this type harm the sustainability of fishing resources. We have many examples of how subsidies and poor management of resources harm fish stocks. Subsidies from the European Union to fishermen in the EU have resulted in the collapse of fishing stocks in the Atlantic Ocean warm regards fish stock in the Atlantic Ocean are in crisis and below sustainable levels. Subsidies are not the way to maintain a healthy and vibrant fishing industry. There are far better examples of ways to manage fisheries - New Zealand is a good one.

Third, it says nothing about the negative impact of a subsidy for what apparently is an unsustainable industry on an activity, sport fishing, which brings a large amount of revenue to the Skeena river system. In essence the current policy endangers the existence of a healthy, non-subsidized (or perhaps very lightly subsidized) industry to benefit an industry that is in decline and which needs to be restructured. The subsidies in effect hinder the re-organization of the commercial fishing industry while damaging the sport fishery which is healthy.

Fourth, the statement by the MP indicates the power of a small concentrated group in lobbying. In this regard, however, the guides in the Skeena system have not covered themselves with glory by lobbying to limit access to the rivers in the Skeena system during steelhead season.

There are ways to deal with all this issues - advocating the continuation of a clearly unsuccessful policy is not going to solve anything, however.

North Coast Steelhead Alliance said...

Well said, Paul.
Our first inclination was to be annoyed by the assertion that we are not even allowed a 'bias' in our own blog. While just the other day, 30 or so commercial fishers invaded and took over the DFO office in Prince Rupert in an attempt to gain some fishing time in Skeena.
Are commercial fishermen the only group allowed to advocate for their interests?