Fish­er­man pass­ing on en­ter­prise to his son, but with an un­cer­tain fu­ture


PORT AU CHOIX, NL - A fa­ther and son in Port au Choix are wor­ried over the un­cer­tain fu­ture of their fish­ing en­ter­prise.

For the Dob­bins, fish­ing is the fam­ily busi­ness, and Sin­tan Dob­bin and his son Robert have been a team for years.

While Sin­tan is pre­par­ing to re­tire from the in­dus­try and sell off his over 40-fleet to Robert, he has doubt if there is much of a busi­ness he’s leav­ing be­hind for his son.

“I’m about to sign it over to him now, but I don’t know what he’ll do with it,” Sin­tan said.

A life­time re­source

taken away

This un­cer­tainty was not al­ways the story. There was a time when the Dob­bin’s en­ter­prise was a suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion, largely due to the fish­ing of hal­ibut in the 4R re­gion.

“We made our liv­ing at the hal­ibut, we put our life­time into it,” Sin­tan said. “Un­til they took it all away from us.”

The hal­ibut fish­ery went un­der a ma­jor shift when the quota was cut to only 1,000 pounds per week in 4R. The change was done to ex­pand the shares of the hal­ibut to all boats in the re­gion. This ma­jor de­crease in quota, which be­fore was the foun­da­tion of Sin­tan’s busi­ness, made the fish­ing of hal­ibut a un­prof­itable ven­ture.

“They shared the quota out in­stead of pri­or­i­tiz­ing fish­er­men who had in­vest­ment and his­tory in this fish­ery,” said Sin­tan. “They gave us the same a thou­sand pounds as ev­ery­body.

“Our en­ter­prises were based on the hal­ibut fish­ery, but they took our fish­ery and spread it out to ev­ery­body.”

Robert also re­calls when hal­ibut was the sole re­source for him and his fa­ther’s busi­ness, but now it is no longer fea­si­ble for them to fish it.

“If they shared it by his­tor­i­cal at­tach­ment we could’ve made it fea­si­ble,” said Robert. “But the union’s about equal­ity I sup­pose, they don’t want it shared out like that.”

Sin­tan says he reached out to the Fish, Food and Al­lied Works (FFAW) union at the time of the shift with con­cerns of how the quota change would de­stroy his en­ter­prise. To his be­wil­der­ment, Sin­tan say he was told there was no such thing as his­tory in the fish­ery.

To­day, in out­ports like Port au Choix, the hal­ibut pop­u­la­tion has ex­ploded.

Sin­tan’s brother Clif­ford Dob­bin fished the hal­ibut this year, and says the pop­u­la­tion has be­come so abun­dant that even us­ing less than half the gear he’s al­lowed to he’s still catch­ing well over quota.

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