U.S. Water News Online
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- In a move to conserve dwindling salmon stocks, Canada announced plans Friday to halve British Columbia's commercial salmon fleet.
"Put very simply, the fish come first," Fisheries Minister Fred Mifflin said. Mifflin said reduction of the 4,400 boat fleet will start this year with a voluntary program to phase out commercial fishing licenses. His ministry has budgeted $5.8 million to pay fisherman who participate.
The plan will affect the jobs of thousands of shore workers who depend on seasonal jobs at docks and fish plants. Mifflin said training programs would be started for displaced fisheries workers.
But fisherman jeered Mifflin at his Vancouver news conference. "I might as well put a match to my boat," said Mike Emes. "Fishermen are having their guts cut out."
Preliminary estimates suggest that last year's commercial salmon catch was down 40 percent from the $150 million annual average between 1991 and 1994.
Unless the current forecast proves too pessimistic, the government may order the crucial Fraser River fishery closed this year. The Pacific Salmon Commission has estimated that as few as 1.4 million sockeye salmon are expected to return to the Fraser this summer, the second straight year of disappointing returns. The Fraser run accounts for half the value of the commercial salmon fishery in British Columbia.
This is the second major federal program designed to bolster dwindling fish stocks. In 1994, the Canadian government allocated $1.4 billion to revamp the dying East Coast cod fishery, cutting the number of full-time fishermen in half, to 13,000.
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