DFO ig­nored in­shore fish­ers’ wishes

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - Wayne Masters Red Har­bour

Dear Editor, I’m a fish har­vester from Red Har­bour on the Pla­cen­tia Bay side of the Burin Penin­sula. I’m also the elected rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the FFAW ex­ec­u­tive board for fish har­vesters on the west and south coasts.

I’m proud to rep­re­sent fish har­vesters and I’m proud to be a leader in the FFAW, which has done more to ad­vance the well-be­ing of fish har­vesters than any other or­ga­ni­za­tion in the long his­tory of New­found­land and Labrador.

For the past three years I’ve watched my fish­ery col­lapse right be­fore my eyes. The crab fish­ery that once sus­tained hun­dreds of in­shore fish­ing en­ter­prises in Pla­cen­tia Bay has de­clined so hard and so fast that it is hard to com­pre­hend what has hap­pened. The lob­ster fish­ery in this area de­clined a few decades ago and never re­cov­ered, and the cod fish­ery, the tra­di­tional fish­ery of the area, has been tee­ter­ing on col­lapse for sev­eral years.

Suf­fice to say this has been a chal­leng­ing time in the fish­ery in Pla­cen­tia Bay.

On Fri­day af­ter­noon, May 12, the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans an­nounced that, in the fu­ture, all fish har­vesters in 3Ps would be per­mit­ted to com­bine three fish­ing li­cences un­der one en­ter­prise — a con­cept known as 3-for-1 com­bin­ing. This de­ci­sion af­fected two dif­fer­ent fleets — the sup­ple­men­tary fleet of ves­sels greater than 40 feet that fish south of Pla­cen­tia and For­tune Bay, and the in­shore fleet of un­der-40-foot ves­sels that fish in­side the bays.

The de­ci­sion by DFO capped a two-week long de­bate amongst fish har­vesters over the mer­its of 3-for-1 com­bin­ing. This de­bate was spurred by a bal­lot sent out by FFAW to 3Ps har­vesters ask­ing whether they wanted 3-for-1 com­bin­ing or not. The is­sue had been dis­cussed for sev­eral years and it was time for the sup­ple­men­tary and in­shore fleets to vote “yes” or “no” on the is­sue.

As a mem­ber of the in­shore fleet, I per­son­ally did not sup­port 3-for-1 com­bin­ing. In Pla­cen­tia Bay, there are too many li­cences and too few fish. Com­bin­ing does not solve that prob­lem; the same num­ber of li­cences will ex­ist, ex­cept some­one can now own three as op­posed to one or two. Com­bin­ing also en­cour­ages peo­ple to buy more li­cences with­out any sense of whether or not it is a sound fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion. This means more har­vester debt, which is al­ready a ma­jor prob­lem in the fish­ery, and fu­ture poli­cies should be fo­cused on not mak­ing it worse.

But my opin­ion is just one of a few hun­dred and I was sat­is­fied to ac­cept what­ever re­sult the in­shore fleet se­lected.

For the past three years I’ve watched my fish­ery col­lapse right be­fore my eyes.

On Fri­day, May 12th, I sat with another har­vester and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from DFO as the bal­lots on 3-for-1 com­bin­ing were counted. For the in­shore fleet, 133 bal­lots were re­turned and 53 per cent voted against 3-for-1 com­bin­ing, 47 per cent in favour. The op­po­site re­sult was achieved in the sup­ple­men­tary fleet, where 34 bal­lots were re­turned and 56 per cent voted in favour of 3-for-1 com­bin­ing.

De­spite a clear re­jec­tion of the idea by the in­shore fleet, DFO went ahead and im­ple­mented 3-for-1 com­bin­ing in both fleets.

Three-for-1 com­bin­ing will bring a fun­da­men­tal shift in the eco­nom­ics of the in­shore fleet. It could pos­si­bly trig­ger mas­sive de­fla­tion or in­fla­tion in li­cences. De­fla­tion would pun­ish those try­ing to get out while in­fla­tion would pun­ish those who want to stay in. DFO’s de­ci­sion will have con­se­quences for an in­shore fleet that never asked to be sub­jected to them.

It has been said many times over the past few months that DFO and FFAW are one and the same. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. DFO op­er­ates how it sees fit; some­times it will heed the ad­vice of har­vesters as voiced by the FFAW, and some­times it does not. DFO has its own mo­ti­va­tions and those are not the same as the FFAW.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.