Har­vesters want higher hal­ibut quota

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS SALTWIRE NETWORK THE NORTH­ERN PEN

NORTH­ERN PENIN­SULA, NL – Har­vesters in the 4R fish­ing zone may be see­ing plenty of hal­ibut this year, but it’s all get­ting thrown back into the wa­ter. Now, they want a larger quota.

Some fish­er­per­sons – in­clud­ing Ernest Decker of Rocky Har­bour and Stella Mail­man of Port au Choix – claim they’re see­ing in­creased vol­umes of hal­ibut by-catch. They feel, in­stead of hav­ing to re­lease the fish, the quota – cur­rently set at 1,297 pounds per har­vester – can be in­creased sub­stan­tially with­out dam­ag­ing the stocks.

Decker says no mat­ter what you’re fish­ing in 4R – lo­cated from Port aux Basques to the Labrador Straits – you’re bound to get a sub­stan­tial by-catch.

“Every gear type we got, we has a by­catch of hal­ibut,” he claimed. “Any fish­ery you pur­sue, there’s an ex­treme high by­catch of hal­ibut.

“It’s just ex­ploded.”

Decker cites his own ex­pe­ri­ence on the wa­ter.

“As a fish har­vester for close to 50 years, I know there’s lots of hal­ibut here in the Gulf,” he said. “It can sus­tain a lot more quota than 1,250 pounds.”

He claims there ap­pears to be more and more every year.

Decker doesn’t think har­vesters, in­clud­ing him, would be ask­ing for a larger quota if it would hurt the stocks as their liveli­hood de­pends upon the health of this in­dus­try.

He be­lieves the quota can be in­creased to as high as 5,000 pounds but he says a 3,000-pound quota would be eas­ily sus­tain­able and suf­fi­cient for har­vesters right now.

Stella Mail­man agrees with Decker’s as­sess­ment on hal­ibut by-catch and quo­tas. She claims she’s see­ing alot of hal­ibut hooked up in the recre­ational cod fish­ery and her brother has seen lots of hal­ibut by­catch in the tur­bot fish­ery.

Mail­man be­lieves the quota can be dou­bled.

“They can come in from the Mag­dalen Is­lands and have a 12-hour free-for-all, catch 1,400, 1,600, 1,800 pounds,” she said. “But we’re al­lowed 1,250 pound? Come on, there’s some­thing wrong with that pic­ture. If the hal­ibut is out there for the other prov­inces, it’s out there for New­found­land.”

Mail­man also feels the hal­ibut fish­ery could be man­aged bet­ter in other re­spects.

She claims that of­ten, when hal­ibut by­catch or hal­ibut caught past its quota are re­leased back into the wa­ter, they’ll die any­way.

“It would be bet­ter if you could take the hal­ibut aboard,” she said.

This would be pos­si­ble with a higher quota. But, fur­ther­more, Mail­man sug­gests the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing able to trade the fish to an­other har­vester to go to­wards their quota.

Both Decker and Mail­man say they caught their 1,250-pound hal­ibut quota in a sin­gle day this year.

The Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans of­fice re­leased the fol­low­ing in­for­ma­tion to the North­ern Pen on the At­lantic hal­ibut quota:

“On May 24, 2017 DFO an­nounced a TAC (To­tal Al­low­able Catch) of 1,297 for At­lantic hal­ibut in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Di­vi­sions 4RST) for a one year pe­riod from May 17, 2017 to May 14, 2018. This rep­re­sents a 25 per cent in­crease in the TAC from 2016 to 2017.

“The next full sci­en­tific as­sess­ment for At­lantic hal­ibut will be in 2019 and will be fol­lowed by a Gulf Ground­fish Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee meet­ing in the spring of that year. How­ever, DFO Science will con­tinue to reg­u­larly col­lect data and mon­i­tor this stock on an­nual ba­sis.

“The man­age­ment cy­cle for At­lantic hal­ibut in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Di­vi­sions 4RST) is from May 15 to May 14 of the fol­low­ing year, and is man­aged on a two-year cy­cle.”

DFO ad­vises that more in­for­ma­tion can be found on the Fish­eries Man­age­ment De­ci­sion at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/ de­ci­sions/fm-2017-gp/atl-08-eng.htm

stephen.roberts@north­ern­pen.ca

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