Local herring fishers relieved DFO ditched new rule for herring fishery
Department shouldn’t dictate how we run out fishing business, says Hickman’s Harbour woman
Melanie Marsh just wanted a simple answer.
How many people are considered “sufficient number of crew members” for a herringfishing boat?
It was a question officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) were unable to answer for her.
Marsh was prompted to ask the question because when she read the conditions attached to her husband, Richard’s, herring licence, she realized a new rule had been added since the Spring fishery — and that rule, in her mind, did not make sense.
The new rule stated that to be considered fully geared up for the herring fishery, the enterprise must have “sufficient number of crew members to set and retrieve this gear type.”
She went to the Clarenville office of DFO last Wednesday, asking an official there to explain, precisely, how many crew members were a sufficient number.
Marsh told The Packet, all she got was a vague answer.
And a clear-cut answer was important, not just for her husband but for other herring fishers, for several reasons.
The herring fishery is a ‘load and go’ fishery.
A quota is set, and fishers who are licenced to catch the herring in each designated fishing zone fish until the quota is caught.
Unlike the crab fishery or cod fishery — where each enterprise has its own individual quota allowing them to plan fishing trips — the herring fishery operates like a “first comefirst served” scenario.
Having a good herring fishing season usually comes down to luck — in finding the fish, trapping it, and praying against bad weather and mechanical breakdowns that might take you off the water.
It also helps to team up with another fishing enterprise.
Like they did in the Spring herring fishery, Richard had planned to team up with his brother, Jim, for the Fall fishery.
Jim Marsh has his own herring licence, boat and gear.
In the herring fishery, it usually works like this.
Herring is a fish best caught at night, using high-powered lights on the deck of a boat to ‘draw’ the fish.
Herring are attracted to bright lights and huge schools of them will swim around the well-lit vessel.
Working as a team, the first boat will keep the high-powered deck lights on, to sit on the school of herring — holding the fish in place, so to speak — while the second boat sets a ‘tuck’ seine around the first boat to capture the fish.
As the ropes on the seine are drawn up through the power block — a pulley powered by hydraulics — the herring are captured.
Then both boats can load up from the seine.
Of course, they must follow the other DFO rule — Licence Conditions 4 (3(b) — that “You shall not share fish with another vessel(s), unless: …. The fish is excess that remain entrapped after the vessel that set the fishing gear has been fully loaded.”
And until the Fall herring conditions arrived via e-mail, the Marsh’s had planned to fish the Fall herring fishery the same way they fished the Spring herring fishery, teaming up with the other boat to share the work, and crewmembers, and ensure a good season for all hands.
Melanie says it’s essentially the same as two businesses working together for the benefit of both.
“For the herring, we’d use five or six crew members between the two boats,” she explains. “They’d work together on catching the herring and, once the boats are loaded with herring, half the crew members will go to port on one boat and
Richard and Melanie Marsh alongside their boat at Hickman’s Harbour. They raised questions last week about a new rule for the Fall herring fishery, and are relieved the DFO changed the amendment.