Representatives from Nuu-chah-nulth Nations and the Area G commercial troll fleet are working together to ensure the remaining funds from the Pacific Salmon Treaty (PST) Chinook Mitigation Program are directed to West Coast Vancouver Island (WCVI) fishers and communities.

The funds, which are estimated to be in the range of $12 million to $15 million, are what is left of the $30 million that that the U.S. agreed to pay Canada as a result of the 2009 PST negotiations that saw Canada’s annual catch reduced by 30 per cent (and the U.S.’s catch reduced by 15 per cent).

“After ten years, it has been proven that this fleet [Area G] lost fifty per cent of their income over the last ten years due to financial negotiations between the U.S. and Canada,” said Dan Edwards, a third-generation fisherman from Ucluelet, when asked why it is important that the remaining funds go to Area G fishers and communities.

The $30 million PST Mitigation Program was broken up into three elements when it was developed in 2009:

  • Voluntary Licence Retirement Program (VLRP)
    for Areas F, G and H of the Commercial Salmon
    Troll Fleet (~ $28.5M)
  • Updating of the Commercial Salmon
    Allocation Framework ($1M)
  • Economic Capacity Building in West Coast
    Vancouver Island Communities ($500K)

While funding for elements two and three are complete, the VLRP, the largest element by far, has been extended twice over the years and only recently wrapped up its final round of retirement application intake on January 31, 2020.

Under the VLRP, Area G commercial troll fishers were invited to submit bids to DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) for the permanent retirement of their salmon troll licenses (a process known as “reverse auction”). A total of 123 salmon troll licences have been retired to date (after 24 rounds of intake), and 43 per cent of those were Area G licences.

Nuu-chah-nulth Nations (including Maa-nulth Treaty Nations and the Five Nations), troll fleets (Area G, F and H), West Coast Aquatic and the Province of BC are now involved in an engagement process to decide how any remaining PST Mitigation funds following the final round of licence “buy-backs” should be used.

“There should be a fair compensation for the loss of livelihood,” said Vic Amos, Hesquiaht First Nation fisherman and 45-year Area G troller. Amos, along with many others, is adamant that Area G fishers took the brunt of the 2009 PST deal and have not been compensated for it properly.

On January 30, Nuu-chah-nulth Nation, Area G and West Coast Aquatic representatives met in Port Alberni to discuss a joint proposal to DFO that would build on Area G’s existing proposal (which has already been given support by Nuu-chah-nulth Ha’wiih) for the use of the PST Mitigation funds.

Comprised of four main components, the Area G proposal calls for direct compensation to affected fishers, improvement of the licence retirement program, support for young fishers and the creation of a co-operative management structure. The joint Nuu-chah-nulth-Area G proposal would present a united front from the two groups whose shared interest lies in ensuring the PST Mitigation funds are moved out of Ottawa, and into the WCVI region.

Once agreed upon, the joint proposal would go to the West Coast Aquatic (WCA) Governance Board for further support. With consensus reached between the three organizations, a successful proposal and subsequent funds would be received and administered through WCA.

“From a purely financial sense, we have a solid financial management system in place to ensure accountability of the funds,” said Tawney Lem, Executive Director of WCA. “The WCA Governance Board has a history since 2001 of diverse groups working together … there is a foundation (the Terms of Reference) to build from that would facilitate those affected coming to decisions on how best to utilize the funds to the benefit of Area G and the region,” she added.

Nuu-chah-nulth and Area G representatives are ironing out the details of their joint proposal and will meet with the WCA Governance Board and DFO in the coming months to discuss the use of the remaining PST Mitigation funds.