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VANCOUVER - The David Suzuki Foundation commends the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada for its difficult decision to close the West Coast recreational halibut fishery early. The DFO announced the fishery will close on September 5, the earliest closure in its history. The recreational fishery is allowed 12 per cent of the total catch.

"Because halibut are now at a low level of abundance, that percentage is bound to be reached earlier than usual," said David Suzuki Foundation sustainable fisheries analyst Scott Wallace. "Whether a sector has 12, 20 or 50 per cent of the allocation, it still needs to close when it reaches its allocation."

Dr. Wallace noted that the commercial halibut fishery is a well-monitored and -managed fishery. "A fish with such tremendous value requires stringent management, and the decision of DFO to close the recreational fishery early reflects a good management system," he said.

Dr. Wallace said that the commercial halibut fishery has adopted, at considerable cost, a system to ensure comprehensive at-sea and dockside monitoring and full accountability for all species caught, targeted and non-targeted, while the guide sport sector has no at-sea monitoring and insufficient dockside monitoring, and therefore no adequate mechanism to ensure accountability for its catch. Even with incomplete monitoring, the sport fishery has exceeded its allocation every year in the six years leading up to 2010.

"Because stocks fluctuate, no sector should expect guaranteed access," Dr. Wallace said. "With the current low stocks, all sectors need to respect the facts and adjust their business accordingly."

DFO estimates that about 60 per cent of the recreational halibut catch is from sport fishing business operations and 40 per cent from individual anglers.

For more information, contact:
Scott Wallace, sustainable fisheries analyst: 1-778-558-3984
Jay Ritchlin, marine and freshwater conservation program director: 1-604-961-6840
Ian Hanington, communications specialist: (604) 732-4228, ext. 1238

August 25, 2011