“I was allowed 2,000 hooks this year, I cut it down to 800 and I still went over my quota,” said Clifford. “Then they told me, ‘Well, you shouldn’t use so much gear.’ I told them I ran less than half of what I was suppose to run, now you can’t much less than that.”
Sintan says the halibut could once again become the profitable fishery for the family, but with no change in quota the abundant fish has just become an annoyance.
“The only thing we got left here is the halibut,” Sintan said. “But it’s just a nuisance because we can’t catch it or get any decent quota for it.”
Attempts at the turbot With the depletion in resource that came from the change in the halibut fishery, Sintan and his son looked to new horizons and chased after the turbot.
The shift was successful for a few summers, but turbot populations in the 4R region have decreased substantially. Now, only a limited number of boats bother with the fishery. Clifford says this summer, due to how tough it is to scrape up the quota, he felt the turbot was not worth the effort.
“The turbot’s been cleaned pretty well out in this area,” Clifford said. “It wasn’t worth going at it this year.”
Robert says the turbot fishery in the area remains profitable only with a handful of boats fishing it.
“They’re getting better catch rates now because there’s so few boats at it,” he said. “But the catch rates are still only getting 15 or 16(hundred) a haul, and that’s not very good for turbot. The only thing that’s keeping them at it is that the price is good.”
With little other choice, Sintan and Robert left the 4R region and attempted to go after the northern turbot fishery this year, but an unlucky series of events made the trip an unfortunate failure.
Sintan says sharks chewed at their gear and through the trip they not only lost their chance at the northern turbot, but lost over $4,000 worth of fishing gear.
The FFAW recently announced a committee to further investment and open quota for groundfish like redfish and turbot. But the Dobbins feel that there is little hope for their enterprises by expanding the turbot fishery. Without changes in the fishing of halibut, they feel there is no future for their enterprises.
“We went after the turbot out of no other choice,” said Robert. “But the turbot is not enough to run the enterprise. We can’t get enough to even pay for our fuel.”
In the FFAW’s press release on the new committee, there was no mention of halibut.
‘Somebody’s got to do
While his frustrations run deep, Sintan hopes that maybe through this committee some discussion and work can be done to address the abundance of halibut in the fishing grounds where his family made their living for so long.
“They’re doing everything backwards as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The fish we shouldn’t be catching they’re keeping it open, and the fish we should be catching they won’t give us no quota on.”
It was a rough summer for their enterprise. To make ends meet, Robert has been helping out on a 65-foot shrimp plant when some additional crew is needed. Like his father, he has doubts over how well he will do when he takes over his father’s boat, especially if no changes in halibut quota come through.
“Somebody’s got to do something,” said Sintan. “It’s not for me, I’m pretty much out of the fishery anyway. But I got a son who wants to take over the enterprise, and who knows if he’s going to be able to do it.”
In areas of the 4R fishing region, the halibut population has exploded. But with limited quotas, for many fishermen the species is just a nuisance.