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B.C. fish harvesters protest federal salmon fisheries closures (VIDEO)

The province's commercial harvest will be cut by 60% this year.

A group of independent B.C. fishers is protesting the federal government's decision to close some major salmon fisheries in the province for the 2021 season.

The Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters' Association addressed the media near Granville Island on Sep. 15.

The organization is upset over Fisheries and Oceans Canada's (DFO) salmon closures at the end of June. According to Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, the move was made as "an initial step towards longer-term reductions in fishing pressure on stocks of conservation concern."

DFO's Salmon Integrated Fisheries Management Plan will likely reduce B.C.'s commercial harvest by 60 per cent this year.

Commercial fisher James Lawson says "I started behind almost $70,000 and at the last second I found out I'm not going to be able to fish; so that's not a great position to be in and there's no light at the end of the tunnel."

Sonia Strobel, CEO of community-supported fishery Skipper Otto, calls it an obvious political issue during an election year and a "gross oversimplification."

She adds salmon stocks could be replenished by measures such as habitat restoration and removing salmon farms from open waters.

A federal fishing licence buyback program is available to commercial fishers in Canada. DFO's COVID-19 financial relief program expires in several weeks and won't provide any aid to salmon harvesters affected by the recent closures.

Some fishers say they need more compensation.

"Many of the fishers don't have licences that they own. They have nothing to sell back to the government, so they're left with nothing but a boat that doesn't get to go fishing anymore because the government has closed those opportunities," explains the Native Fishing Association's Andy Olson.

The Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters' Association represents about 1,200 independent harvesters on the B.C. coast.

With files from Nelson Bennett