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.

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