Tack­ling the fu­ture of the fish­ery

Har­vesters look­ing to es­tab­lish new hook and line com­mit­tee after quota takes sud­den cut

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KYLE GREENHAM

After the fall fish­ery lost half their quota and their fi­nal week on the wa­ter, some cod har­vesters with newly-in­stalled au­to­line jig­gers are look­ing to form a com­mit­tee.

As a re­sult of these cuts, Derek Bath, who per­son­ally in­vested over $100,000 to in­stall this sys­tem, did not have the chance to fish with it this year.

In Jan­uary, the Twill­ingate fish­er­man was one of eight har­vesters awarded fund­ing from the At­lantic Fish­eries Fund. Over $600,000 in fed­eral and pro­vin­cial money was an­nounced for the in­stal­la­tion of au­to­mated long liner hauler sys­tems on ves­sels across the prov­ince.

This au­to­mated sys­tem, of­ten re­ferred to as au­to­line jig­gers, is the stan­dard prac­tice in the cod fish­eries of Ice­land and Nor­way, and is renowned for its abil­ity to both ef­fi­ciently catch fish and pro­duce a high-qual­ity prod­uct

It was this push for qual­ity catch and the talk of a re­bound­ing cod fish­ery that led har­vesters like Bath to in­vest in this new tech­nol­ogy. But now, har­vesters who have in­vested and geared up with the most mod­ern and ef­fi­cient cod-catch­ing equip­ment are up­set their time on the wa­ter has been cut short.

“That was the en­cour­age­ment we had from all the pow­ers that be, this will get us the best qual­ity fish,” said Bath. “It’s a big in­vest­ment to make. But if they shut it down and we lose our chance to fish, what’s the point?”

Com­mit­tee prospects

On Oct. 16, the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) an­nounced a re­duc­tion in quota for the fall fish­ery to 3,500 pounds a week, down from the ini­tial 7,000 lbs a week. Then, DFO closed the fish­ery a week early on Oct. 27. Bath says with the time and money he in­vested into this au­to­mated sys­tem, these cuts were a con­sid­er­able blow to his en­ter­prise.

“With the time it took to in­stall the gear, and then we burned a lot of fuel just ex­per­i­ment­ing and learn­ing how it all works, it was re­ally only those last two weeks we were hop­ing to get in some good fish­ing,” said Bath. “We waited all sum­mer for the fall fish­ery but when the quota was cut in half it was not fea­si­ble to go out.”

Be­cause of ad­di­tional de­lays with rough weather and steer­ing is­sues, out­side of ini­tial tests, Bath and his crew did not use their au­to­line jig­gers to fish this year.

He is now speak­ing with other har­vesters who bought into this tech­nol­ogy in hopes of form­ing their own com­mit­tee. Bath hopes to put more pres­sure on pro­tect­ing the fall fish­ery and en­cour­age other changes that will bet­ter ben­e­fit the grow­ing number of the prov­ince’s hook and line har­vesters.

Lee Melindy of Lums­den also in­stalled au­to­line jig­gers on his boat this fall. He agrees a com­mit­tee should be formed now that this new style of fish­ing is on the rise.

“I said the same thing as Derek, it’s time to get a hook and line com­mit­tee to­gether be­cause there is enough of us now,” said Melindy. “For us, to get in­volved with the fall fish­ery you need some kind of an in­cen­tive. You got ev­ery­thing work­ing against you, espe­cially with the weather and the wind.”

In­shore di­rec­tor with the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers Union (FFAW) Bill Brod­er­ick says this re­duc­tion was an up­set across the in­shore fish­ery. Brod­er­ick does not agree with DFO’s de­ci­sion, say­ing this de­ci­sion is the re­sult of strong catch rates against an un­nec­es­sar­ily low quota.

“The quota was small but the fish was there and it was caught so fast they had to cut it,” Brod­er­ick said. “We un­der­stand they can’t let us fish over the quota, but we shouldn’t have had such a re­duc­tion this year to be­gin with.”

In an emailed re­sponse from DFO, the de­part­ment stated that ad­just­ments had to be made through­out the sea­son due to the higher than an­tic­i­pated land­ings of cod this year. As of Oct. 25, 98 per cent of the catch limit (9,500 tons) had been reached and there­fore the fish­ery was closed early on Oct. 27.

As the as­sess­ment of cod stocks by DFO be­gins again this win­ter, Brod­er­ick en­cour­aged com­mit­tees to get in­volved with FFAW ef­forts to put pres­sure on DFO for more ac­cu­rate sci­ence and bet­ter quota for har­vesters.

Hopes for the fu­ture

Al­though he only had four weeks at the fish­ery this year, Melindy says the au­to­line jig­ger proved to be an ex­cel­lent way of catch­ing fish. The au­to­mated sys­tem baits the hook, shoots it into the wa­ter and brings the fish up onto a con­veyer that un­hooks it as well.

“There’s no work to it, the only work to your fish is clean­ing it and putting it away,” he said. “The last set we did we shot off 1,400 hooks and an hour later we ended up with more than 2,000 pounds of fish.

“The old man was there and he’s a gill­net­ter to the bone. For him to say it’s a good way to catch a bit of fish than it’s got to be.”

Be­cause of the rough weather dur­ing the au­tumn months, Bath says one thing he’d like to fight for with a hook and line com­mit­tee is a quota set per boat, rather than the cur­rent sys­tem of weekly quo­tas.

“With the winds you get in the fall, you can’t haul in that kind of weather. You might lose an en­tire week of fish­ing some­times,” he said. “If we had a boat quota then the few good days you get you can re­ally push to catch as much as you can.”

Bath has also en­gaged in con­ver­sa­tions with the FFAW re­gard­ing the pro­posed com­mit­tee. He says noth­ing is of­fi­cial yet, but he is hop­ing there will be a hook and line com­mit­tee in place for early next year.

Like all cod har­vesters, Bath is also hop­ing the quota to catch will be much higher next year, and that the talk of a re­bound­ing cod fish­ery will prove true.

“We’re ready for next year is the main thing. It’s all bought and paid for, we know how to in­stall the gear and what to do with it,” he said. “Hope­fully next year we’ll be suc­cess­ful.”

KYLE GREENHAM — THE CEN­TRAL VOICE

Twill­ingate fish­er­man Derek Bath is look­ing to set up a hook and line com­mit­tee with other har­vesters who have in­vested in au­to­line jig­gers After the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) cut quo­tas and shut down the fall fish­ery for cod a week early, Bath says this com­mit­tee should put pres­sure on DFO to en­sure the fall fish­ery is bet­ter man­aged and pro­tected

KYLE GREENHAM — THE CEN­TRAL VOICE

These new au­to­mated jig­ger sys­tems are the stan­dard prac­tice in the cod fish­eries of Ice­land and Nor­way, renown for their abil­ity to catch qual­ity cod quickly and with lit­tle labour re­quired.

FILE PHOTO

In­shore di­rec­tor for the Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers Union Bill Brod­er­ick says the re­duc­tion in cod quota, set by the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans ear­lier this year, was un­nec­es­sary and has caused grief for har­vesters across the board.

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