Un­cer­tain fu­ture

Northern Pen - - FRONT PAGE - FROM A2

“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

some­thing’

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.”

FILE PHOTO

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.

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