The rise of the Pacific fishery in the 1870s and 80s produced huge catches, resulting in the development of numerous communities, employment of thousands, the generation of fortunes, and the ability to feed millions of people. Alexander Ewen, an industry pioneer, packed fewer than two thousand salmon in the summer of 1871. It was a modest catch, yet those 30,000 pounds of salmon marked the dawn of British Columbia's modern salmon industry. Today, the fishing industry harvests millions of fish in a matter of weeks. It is valued at over $1 billion annually and provides employment to over 25,000 people. The industry represents B.C.'s largest single food export and the livelihood of many small coastal communities. (7,2)
However, Canada's Pacific fisheries are at a crisis point. Despite having had some of the world's most abundant fish resources, capable of yielding great economic and social benefits, many commercial fisherman and companies are now near bankruptcy, fishermen are preoccupied with declining opportunities to fish due to attempts to conserve stock, and the fisheries are a heavy burden on Canadian taxpayers because of the need for government subsidies and regulation.
The problems now facing the Pacific fisheries include overfishing, conflict among users, overexpansion of the fishing fleets, and eroding marine and freshwater habitat. (10,3)
Here's the paradox: the B.C. salmon fishery, forced to reduce its fleet by the federal government to conserve a dwindling stock, is idling people by the hundreds and losing millions of dollars in potential revenue. But the fish farming industry, which has the potential of creating jobs and millions of dollars of revenue, has been prevented from expanding by a provincial moratorium that has been in place for much of this decade. (16) What has become clear is that utilization of the potentially lucrative aquaculture industry is essential...