It’s Time for a Shift: The Importance of Retraining & Buy-Back Programs for Trawl Fishers

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The development of alternative career opportunities are needed for trawl fishers — whose livelihoods are at stake.

The widespread practice of bottom trawling has led to overfishing, destruction of habitats, loss of biodiversity, marine pollution and fishing gear waste throughout Canadian waters. More sustainable fishing practices are needed to protect marine spaces. To encourage the eventual ban of bottom trawls, the development of alternative career opportunities are needed for fishers — whose livelihoods are at stake. Federal investments to support bottom trawling vessels can go towards mitigating the long-term impacts of the ban.

Case studies from Fishermen Transfer Programs in China and Canada’s own salmon fisheries closure, retraining programs and license buy-back programs can help guide the bottom trawl industry on possible solutions.

How can the federal government help fishers outside of the industry?

Retraining programs can benefit bottom trawl fisheries by providing education and new skills in the fisheries and oceans sector. Zhoushan City, China provided marine fishers with alternate professions. They were able to retrain in related industries such as fish processing and recreational fishery.

Programs can help train employees as technicians, monitors, and researchers to gather more data on marine health. Fishers can also retrain to sustainable farming practices like land-based or (sustainable) aquaculture farming.

Local governments can provide vessel buy-back programs to reduce the number of fishing vessels on the water. Fisheries management agencies can buy back and retire licenses at market value. This has been tested in the Canadian Pacific Salmon Fishery.

We need to encourage the federal government and support our fishers in transitioning to sustainable practices and protecting fisheries and this foundational livelihood for generations to come.