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
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.