- Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
The Octopus by Dive Fishery in British Columbia is a small, (14 licences) very selective fishery. It is listed on sustainability sites such as Ocean Science as one of the least at risk fisheries for over harvesting due to high fecundity in the target stock and selectivity in the harvest methods, (hand picking by divers).
The fishery has existed in B.C. since the late 1960's. Licences were always held by individuals prior to 1999. That year the DFO redefined the fishery as a "new and developing" fishery in order to get the fishers to develop stock information. This was to be for a 3-5 year period after which the licence would be put back into the former criteria under the fisheries act. At that time there were only 14 licencees who qualified for a licence under the limited entry landing criteria. The fishers have spent the time from then until now gathering science data for the department as per their requirements in the expectation that their licences would be restored to them.
Three years ago the department stated it would be restoring the licences to the stakeholders. Nothing happened until this year when, without notice, consultation or reference to the science data gathered, the department sent out letters announcing the suspension of privileges, meaning the fishery was closed. The participants have all spent a lot of time, effort and capital to develop a viable and sustainable fishery and even though small their effort contributes to the economic well being of their province.
In addition, they wish to hold the department accountable for their actions in this issue, as the original action of changing the licences to a permit based system effectively deprived the stakeholders of their property and with the subsequent suspension of privileges the department effectively broke it's word.