Haida fishers will try to shed light on the future of commercial fishing at a Dec. 10 fisheries forum hosted by HaiCo in the Old Massett Village Hall.
“The initial step is to speak to the Haida fishermen, who have a vested interest not only in HaidaWild and HaiCo, but also in Haida Gwaii and their families,” Theo Assu, HaiCo’s business development coordinator, said.
Assu started his own career as a commercial fisher working on his family’s seine vessel, the Haida Girl.
“These are the guys who are on the ground catching and delivering the product,” he said.
Topics at the day-long forum will include potential target species, licensing and quota, best practices, deliveries and off-loading, and market conditions.
Much of the processing for Haida fishers is done by Haida Wild in Masset.
All Haida Wild products are Ocean Wise-certified, and they include black cod, halibut and salmon, as well as prawn, crab, and razor clams.
Representatives from Haida Wild will join the forum, along with people from Haida Fisheries and the Council of the Haida Nation.
Assu said after a general decline across the B.C. coast, commercial fishing has seen some regrowth.
“Part of the plan is to enable Haida fishermen to return to the industry,” he said.
Anyone looking to get started as a commercial fisher has a number of hurdles to clear, ranging from ballast and navigation training to securing a licence, a quota, a vessel, and gear.
“These aren’t turnkey operations,” said Assu. “It’s not like you can just walk in and manage an empire of commercial fishing assets, and have all the knowledge and skills required.”
Most fishers start by getting a number of certifications, and fishing quota from a leased boat.
While most B.C. fishers only fish seasonally, some are able to work nearly year-round by starting with herring in February and then moving to prawn, halibut, crab, cod, and salmon fisheries through the year.
Securing licensing and quota is often difficult, said Assu, who said the systems are complex, and often changing.
But recent federal programs, such as the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative, have increased First Nations participation in commercial fisheries, and part of the forum discussion will about how that will continue.
The Haida Wild Fisheries Forum will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Old Masset Village Hall. Any fishers interested in joining are asked to forward their contact information and fishing experience to Theo Assu at email@example.com.