B.C. court certifies halibut class-action suit
By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver
Wednesday, February 19, 2014 3:23:55 PST PM

A class-action lawsuit has been approved for B.C. commercial halibut fishers trying to get back millions given to the federal government under a 2001 scheme now deemed illegal.

Meldon Ellis, a lawyer representing independent fisher Barry Jim Burnell, said on Wednesday the government program that took 10% of the halibut fisheries’ total allowable catch and effectively sold the quota back to fishers was ruled unconstitutional in 2006.

But by that point, fishers in B.C. had paid $800,000 to $1 million each year to the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans, he said.

“Our lawsuit is about recovering those additional fees that were paid by the fishers,” Ellis said.

“It appears that it was, through these joint project agreements, a scheme to generate additional funds for fisheries management.”

On Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin certified the class-action lawsuit for commercial halibut fishers who paid for the quota to the government’s Pacific Halibut Management Society.

Ellis said the fees had affected about 400 commercial licensees, who would have had to pay about 10-15% above their normal costs to fish for those years.

He added the suit might proceed to trial in about a year’s time. Read more.