See­ing red

Red­fish mak­ing a come­back

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY MARTINE BLUE

Ac­cord­ing to Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) West Coast rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ja­son Spin­gle, red­fish were a pop­u­lar and pro­lific species in their hey­day.

“It was prob­a­bly the most promi­nent fish­ery back in the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80’s on the south and south­west coast,” Spin­gle said. “Cod was big too, but red­fish land­ings sup­ported the com­mu­ni­ties’ plants in Bur­geo, Ramea, Gaultois and Port aux Basques.”

The red­fish de­pleted along with cod and other ground­fish in the late ‘80’s, early ‘90’s.

“It has been at a very low level since, based on the min­i­mum com­mer­cial fish­ery and sci­ence sur­veys,” Spin­gle noted. “A few years ago, a small bloom of red

fish showed up, which is sur­pris­ing since they (sci­en­tists) didn’t think there were a lot of adult red fish to pro­duce it.”

“I guess Mother Na­ture has its

way and can sur­prise us some­times,” Spin­gle said. “They are say­ing, this is from sci­ence, that the re­cruit­ment — the small fish that are now un­der­size be­cause they are slow grow­ing fish — are un­prece­dented in the Gulf.

“They fig­ure it could be the largest ground fish stock ever in At­lantic Canada when it ma­tures. In ex­cess of five mil­lion met­ric tones. It has great po­ten­tial as we see it.”

Spin­gle only knows of two har­vesters cur­rently fish­ing the species along the west coast.

Red­fish had resurged to such a de­gree, the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) opened a sea­son for catch­ing the species in the NAFO Di­vi­sion of 4R (Unit 1) on June 30. How­ever just six days later, DFO shut that op­por­tu­nity down again when reg­u­la­tors dis­cov­ered that too high a per­cent­age of the catch were un­der 22 cen­time­ters, un­der the small fish pro­to­col. The fish weren’t ma­ture enough to sus­tain the species yet. How­ever, the hold on the species could be lifted as the fish ma­ture.

Along the south­west coast, the 3Ps and 3Pn por­tions of Unit 2 opened for red­fish har­vest­ing on July 7. 3Ps then closed on July 19, but the rest of Unit 2 is still open sea­son for har­vesters.

Quota sys­tem

Spin­gle ex­plains the cur­rent quota sys­tem.

“There’s some­where around 40-45 mo­bile gear ground­fish en­ter­prises that would have ac­cess in 4R and 3Pn and what we have right now un­der the cur­rent plan is a des­ig­nated 200 tones,” he said. “That’s some­what over 400,000 pounds. Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ja­son Spin­gle.

“But shortly af­ter 1995 when this was placed un­der an index fish­ery, the de­part­ment has only al­lowed four per­mits to tra­di­tional non-shrimpers to have ac­cess. It’s just on a com­pet­i­tive com­po­nent at 200 tones and we haven’t come close to catch­ing it in re­cent years.

“If you want to break the 200 tones amongst the 40 odd en­ter­prises, it wouldn’t be much and our share in Unit 2 is not that sig­nif­i­cant ei­ther.

Spin­gle notes there is also an in­for­ma­tional quota — where har­vesters can help record stats on the fish un­der the Ex­per­i­men­tal Red­fish Fish­ing Plan — that all har­vesters can ap­ply for. The quota for that pro­gram has not been al­lo­cated yet.

Im­pact on shrimp?

Spin­gle wor­ries that the resur­gence of red­fish will neg­a­tively im­pact the shrimp fish­ery since red­fish prey on shrimp.

“Shrimp has been the ba­sis for many folks’ liveli­hood and has been quite good through­out the Gulf,” Spin­gle said. “The shrimp has taken a down turn and prob­a­bly will con­tinue to.

“Un­for­tu­nately, sci­ence has ac­knowl­edged it for­mally that the shrimp has de­clined due to changes in the en­vi­ron­ment as well as pre­da­tion from this in­com­ing red fish.”

He con­tin­ues, “We’d like to think the shrimp aren’t go­ing to be im­pacted, but we see this as be­ing part of the fu­ture. We hope they aren’t im­pacted but all the ev­i­dence points to there’s go­ing to be less shrimp to catch.”

Spin­gle says that abun­dance of cer­tain species seems to come in waves.

“Un­for­tu­nately, every­thing doesn’t seem to be abun­dant all at once,” Spin­gle com­mented. “For a long time cod, red­fish and floun­der, back in the ‘80’s, that’s what a lot of th­ese har­vesters made their liv­ing on and that’s what the plants pro­duced.”

Spin­gle noted in the last 30 years since the mora­to­rium, fish­ers have re­ally gone to shell­fish, namely snow crab and shrimp and now they’re see­ing ma­jor de­clines in those.

“I guess that’s part of it, sta­bil­ity lasts only so long, and I think a lot of it is en­vi­ron­men­tally in­flu­enced,” he said. “Red­fish is a good ex­am­ple where things looked pretty bleak for such a long pe­riod of time and then all of a sud­den you have this abun­dance of fish. Time will tell.”

Man­tilla red­fish

Spin­gle has great hopes for a cer­tain species of red­fish.

“Man­tilla red­fish are more abun­dant,” Spin­gle noted. “If you can en­sure that you are catch­ing more of the man­tilla, your quota can be sig­nif­i­cantly higher.

“If you want to find a way to sep­a­rate the species, then you are look­ing at quo­tas not too far down the road, in ex­cess of a 100 thou­sand tones.”

He is op­ti­mistic and has work to do while wait­ing for the cur­rent crop of fish to ma­ture. “It’s go­ing to be a wait and see and we’re propos­ing to do some work and tests on gear,” Spin­gle com­mented. “We are go­ing to have to build on our mar­kets too, so that’s go­ing to be a chal­lenge.”

The Gulf News con­tacted rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Co­droy Seafoods and The Barry Group for insight into whether they are cur­rently pro­cess­ing red­fish, if so to what ex­tent, as well as which mar­kets red­fish do well in, but re­ceived no re­sponse from ei­ther by print dead­line.


Fish be­ing off­loaded and sorted at the wharf in Port aux Basques.


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