Commercial fishing industry alive and well in Steveston
Having been born in a fishing family and having spent a fair part of my life earning a respectable living in the industry, I have always been puzzled to hear people remark that the fishing industry is “dead,” “dying” or “a sunset industry.”
While it is true that the industry is not what it was compared to its glory days of the 1970s and ‘80s, much of the decline has been due to programs aimed at reducing the number of boats in the fishing fleet—a process which was long overdue.
Even though I no longer earn a living as a fisherman, I witness the huge contribution the industry continues to make to the province as a director of the Steveston Harbour Authority. Many people in Steveston and Richmond do not realize that every year, right here in Steveston, between 30 and 65 million pounds of seafood are unloaded at our facilities.
Steveston Harbour Authority is the largest commercial fishing harbour in the country and is by far the most significant of the 571 harbour authorities in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ harbour authority program. We are home to more than 350 commercial fishing vessels and have state of the art unloading, storage and moorage facilities and provide direct and indirect employment to many people in the area.
Steveston Harbour Authority properties are also home to more than a dozen businesses connected with the fishing industry, including marine insurance, gear manufacturing, and an ice plant that provides boats with thousands of tonnes of ice each and every year.
We are also pleased to have recently signed an agreement with an established marine navigation training institute that is currently building a facility on our properties where it will train fisherman and other boaters to obtain licences to navigate vessels.
The recent announcement regarding dredging funding in Steveston Harbour is a clear acknowledgement by all levels of government that the fishing industry continues to play a huge role in our economy.
The industry has experienced troubled times in the past, notably in the late 1960s, but has always bounced back. Unlike many other sectors in our economy, fishing, like forestry and agriculture, is a renewable resource, and if we work to ensure wild stocks are properly managed and needed infrastructure is maintained, the industry will be employing thousands of people in the decades and centuries to come.
A healthy economy cannot be based solely on property development, entertainment and other services. Let’s keep our eye on the ball and recognize the enormous role that commercial fishing plays in our economy and the need to ensure that it continues to do so in the future.
Robert Kiesman is a director on the board of the Steveston Harbour Authority.