Harvesters want higher halibut quota
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