Bonavista Bay conversations
HARE BAY, NL – About two dozen fish harvesters gathered in Hare Bay Jan. 19 to share their concerns with representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). Ron Burton, area director for DFO Eastern, Central and Labrador, chaired the meeting. The following are some of the harvesters’ concerns.
Moving to fines
Burton confirmed the department is looking to address fines for smaller infractions within the fishery rather than going to court. However, the option of going to court would still there. Burton said finalization of the process is “very close” but couldn’t provide a start date.
Due to ice conditions causing delays in the crab fishery, questions arose about a fall crab fishery. Burton stated studies have been conducted on this topic in the past. One report showed very poor results, while the other showed better. He said another study is being carried out, with the results dictating the advantages of catching late in the fall compared to spring.
Harvesters and DFO discussed the option of a buddy-up system to land cod quotas, similar to one used in the crab fishery. The system would allow harvesters to fish their own quotas while sharing one vessel. One downside DFO noted is that the buddy-up system allows inactive fishers to partner with an active fisher to catch a quota. This would see more license holders obtaining a quota and would make for lower individual quotas for active fishers.
Fishermen expressed concern about how dates and weekly quotas are set up. They say the seasonal timeline works; however, harvesters have had difficulty getting buyers to purchase during the first three weeks of the season as they are dealing with other species at that time. With weekly quotas in place, leaving cod fish in the water results in lost wage for fishers. One suggestion was increasing the shelf life of quotas by moving to a monthly, instead of weekly, quota. This allows harvesters to retain quota when processors aren’t buying, and catch at a later date.
When the cod season wraps for the year, harvesters have 30 hours to pull their fishing gear from the water. Harvesters raised concerns about bad weather impeding this process. DFO stated it doesn’t want fishermen putting themselves in harm’s way when it comes to gear retrieval in unfavourable conditions, and it’s something that would to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.