FISH­ER­MEN PROTEST DFO MACK­EREL DE­CI­SION

Green Bay South fish­er­men hold protest in hopes of change in DFO de­ci­sion

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY ADAM RAN­DELL

“They’ve wasted a good many tax­payer dol­lars to­day. So, we’ve got some­body’s at­ten­tion with what we are do­ing.” - Brad Ride­out, fish­er­man

Brad Ride­out hauled the 55-foot Fish­er­men’s Dream away from his Robert’s Arm wharf the evening of Oct. 17.

He was one of a few fish­er­men to take part in a peace­ful protest over mack­erel.

The fish­ery is an im­por­tant part of north­east-coast op­er­a­tors’ liveli­hoods dur­ing the fall. By the Green Bay South fish­er­men’s es­ti­ma­tion, it can make up 50 per cent or more of their an­nual in­come, de­pend­ing on how the sea­son plays out.

While the mack­erel fish­ery closed Oct. 10 af­ter the 10,000 tonnes to­tal al­low­able catch (TAC) for the At­lantic re­gion was landed, the fish­er­man of 35 years says there’s more than enough of the species left in the wa­ter to ex­tend the sea­son.

Af­ter the com­mer­cial fish­ery was closed, he said, the Mar­itimes’ – Nova Sco­tia, PEI, and New Brunswick – was opened to a han­d­line bait fish­ery, up to 1,000 pounds per day, per li­cense.

“Whether it’s for food or bait, it’s still com­ing out of the wa­ter as a mack­erel,” Ride­out said, adding if the op­tion was af­forded to the Mar­itimes, it should also be given to New­found­land and Labrador har­vesters.

“We were sat­is­fied to stay tied on if it meant it was closed for ev­ery­body else,” he said. “But if (other parts of the Mar­itimes) get more, than we want more.”

Fur­ther­more, Ride­out ex­plained, more than a third of the of the TAC – 3,500 tonnes of the 10,000-tonne quota – was landed be­fore New­found­land and Labrador fish­er­men even had a chance to par­take in the fish­ery.

Cast­ing off

As he nor­mally does when chas­ing mack­erel, Ride­out’s strat­egy was to head out of the bay, steam­ing south to­wards Tri­ton – ap­prox­i­mately 15 kilo­me­tres away – hug­ging the shore­line. The search didn’t take long. Just over 100 feet from his wharf, in eight fath­oms of wa­ter, the sounder and the sonar be­gan light­ing up. He had found the mack­erel in the mid­dle of the har­bour.

“That just shows you how far we have to go,” he said, re­fer­ring to the abun­dance of the species, while shak­ing his head. “All this fish and you’re not al­lowed to catch it.”

With his lights on, draw­ing the fish to his ves­sel, Ride­out started the process of mov­ing into po­si­tion, ready for his part­ner in an­other ves­sel to ac­com­pany him. Ride­out es­ti­mated there was 200,000 pounds of fish. Just kilo­me­tres away, an­other protest fish­er­man has a read­ing of more than 300,000 pounds. Be­tween the two boats, there was more than half-a-mil­lion pounds of mack­erel up for grabs, but Ride­out changed his mind.

What they were do­ing is deemed il­le­gal, as it’s out of sea­son.

The use of lights had held the at­ten­tion of the species for sev­eral hours, but af­ter seek­ing ad­vice from FISH-NL, Ride­out de­cided against catch­ing the mack­erel.

Choices

Il­le­gally ob­tain­ing the fish would likely re­sult of the con­fis­ca­tion and charges. He felt it was coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to the mes­sage area fish­er­men were try­ing to con­vey.

Ride­out doesn’t feel an ex­tended fish­ery would be harm­ful to the stock’s health, as there’s an abun­dance, as high­lighted by what the two boats have been able to lure in.

And with a Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) plane in the air, at least two govern­ment boats on the wa­ter mon­i­tor­ing, and fish­eries of­fi­cers on shore, Ride­out said they had made their point.

“They’ve wasted a good many tax­payer dol­lars to­day,” he said. “So, we’ve got some­body’s at­ten­tion with what we are do­ing.”

He is hop­ing the de­mon­stra­tion can help cre­ate di­a­logue be­tween fish­er­men, DFO and the union – FFAW–Uni­for. Mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion Be­cause of the Cen­tral Voice’s pub­li­ca­tion dead­lines, DFO re­sponded prior to the de­mon­stra­tion Oct. 17.

An emailed state­ment in­di­cated the fish­ery was closed be­cause the 10,000-tonne TAC was reached, and that the clo­sure was done in the name of con­ser­va­tion. It con­firmed the bait fish­ery re­mained open in all ar­eas of At­lantic Canada and Que­bec.

“Any land­ings must be re­ported, and are for per­sonal use only for bait in on­go­ing fish­eries. They can­not be sold,” read the state­ment.

The depart­ment rec­og­nized a po­ten­tial protest might hap­pen in New­found­land and Labrador, and that any re­ten­tion of the species out of sea­son would be deemed il­le­gal.

“We re­spect the right of peo­ple to peace­fully voice their opin­ions,” read the state­ment. “How­ever, we are closely mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and re­mind peo­ple it is im­per­a­tive that they re­spect the law.”

Union calls for change

Af­ter Ride­out and area fish­er­men de­clared their in­ten­tions, Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) shared a mes­sage of sol­i­dar­ity. The union, which rep­re­sents the prov­ince’s fish­er­men, also called on DFO to re­con­sider the mack­erel fish­ery.

“FFAW mem­bers are jus­ti­fied in their frus­tra­tions at be­ing shut out of a fish­ery that is show­ing many signs of be­ing healthy and abun­dant,” FFAWUni­for pres­i­dent, Keith Sul­li­van, said in the press re­lease. “More­over, many re­movals are not be­ing recorded, es­pe­cially in the Mar­itime re­gion. This is sim­ply un­ac­cept­able.”

They also re­it­er­ated the mes­sage that the TAC was set un­ac­cept­ably low and that har­vester ob­ser­va­tions from the past have been ig­nored.

“DFO has not done the ap­pro­pri­ate work needed to both ac­cu­rately es­ti­mate the mack­erel biomass and cal­cu­late com­mer­cial and recre­ational re­movals. Con­se­quently, our mem­bers are be­ing short­changed the op­por­tu­nity to har­vest at rea­son­able lev­els,” Sul­li­van added.

“Whether it’s for food or bait, it’s still com­ing out of the wa­ter as a mack­erel.” - Brad Ride­out, fish­er­man

“FFAW mem­bers are jus­ti­fied in their frus­tra­tions at be­ing shut out of a fish­ery that is show­ing many signs of be­ing healthy and abun­dant.” -FFAW-Uni­for pres­i­dent, Keith Sul­li­van

PHO­TOS BY ADAM RAN­DELL/THE CEN­TRAL VOICE

Robert’s Arm fish­er­man, Brad Ride­out pulls the 55-foot Fish­er­man’s Dream away from the wharf to hold a protest fish­ery over mack­erel Oct. 17.

Crewmem­bers, from left, Hay­ward Mitchell, Brian Os­mond and Jackie Roberts can’t help but get caught up in the large amounts of mack­erel be­ing drawn to the sur­face, so close to the shores of Robert’s Arm the evening of Oct. 17.

The 55-foot Fish­er­men’s Dream has a six-foot hold. Ride­out’s es­ti­mated there was more than 200,000 pounds of mack­erel for the tak­ing, more than enough to fill two boats.

In this photo, the sounder in­di­cates nearly 60 feet of fish in depth, un­seen, the radar projects a 100-foot ra­dius sur­round­ing the boat Oct. 17.

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