High cost and lack of in­for­ma­tion ham­per­ing new en­trants

The Western Star - - LIFE - BY ADAM RAN­DELL

Young fish­ers feel the high cost of en­try and a lack of in­for­ma­tion about the in­dus­try are pre­vent­ing more of their co­horts from join­ing their ranks.

In a room filled with a lot of grey, re­ced­ing, and a few nonex­is­tent hair­lines, Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW)Uni­for hosted a dis­cus­sion on the next gen­er­a­tion in the fish­ery in Gan­der this week as part of their wider con­fer­ence.

Jamie Aly­ward is one of the younger har­vesters in St. Bren­dan’s, Bon­av­ista Bay.

The 36-year-old spent four years in the fish­ery after grad­u­at­ing in 2000. See­ing bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties out west, he spent more than a decade com­mut­ing to Al­berta be­fore re­turn­ing to the fish­ery in 2016. He feels for­tu­nate to be able to be a part of his fam­ily’s en­ter­prise, be­cause un­less there’s a fam­ily con­nec­tion, Aly­ward said it’s near im­pos­si­ble to get a foot in the door be­cause of the cost.

“Thirty years ago, it was go to DFO (Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans) and get a ground­fish li­cense for a few dol­lars,” he said. “Now, for me to be­come a fish har­vester from scratch, you’re pretty much look­ing at

five years of full-time em­ploy­ment with the fish­ery and do­ing cour­ses — pro­fes­sional fish har­vester cer­ti­fi­ca­tion — be­fore you’re even al­lowed to buy an ac­tual li­cense or be for­tu­nate enough to have some­one trans­fer one to you.”

The un­der 40-foot class in­shore fish­er­man says to buy into

an en­ter­prise re­quires an in­vest­ment of $200,000 to $300,000 for a ves­sel and li­cens­ing, some­thing many po­ten­tial new en­trants just can’t af­ford.

“The in­vest­ment is al­most not worth it, and se­cur­ing fi­nanc­ing is not easy for a young per­son,” he said. “I think ac­cess to fi­nan­cial help would go a long way in getting new en­trants into the fish­ery.”

Stephanie Lights has been in­volved in the fish­ery for the past two years, getting her start with her fa­ther fish­ing cod after be­ing a hair­dresser for 13 years. She is cur­rently an ap­pren­tice har­vester, some­thing, she said, that hasn’t come with­out its chal­lenges.

“There’s a lot of old-school mind­frames, not only to­ward young fish­ers, fe­male fish­ers as well,” she said.

Be­ing a woman in the in­dus­try, Lights said, of­ten came with com­ments about how she was work­ing in the boat’s kitchen.

“When I went on the boat I worked my ass off,” she said. “I boxed thou­sands and thou­sands of pounds of crab, and it still boils my blood when they say it, be­cause getting your name out there is a lot of hard work.”

Now, the Port de Graves fisher is look­ing at mov­ing her ed­u­ca­tion for­ward and plans to one day own her own li­cense. How­ever, when her fa­ther passed ear­lier this year, find­ing in­for­ma­tion on how to move for­ward proved to be dif­fi­cult.

“It wasn’t on­line, if it was it wasn’t ob­vi­ous, and every time I needed some­thing in par­tic­u­lar, it wasn’t at my fin­ger­tips,” she said.

Lights be­lieves hav­ing in­for­ma­tion net­works in place would as­sist new en­trants.

“I think there should be pro­grams and coun­cils for young peo­ple, to build in­ter­est and help those just getting into the in­dus­try.”

Pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties

While the FFAW didn’t spec­ify any ini­tia­tives it has un­der­way to bring youth into the fish­ery, Neil Jones, a St. Lewis, Labrador, fish­er­man be­lieves an early in­tro­duc­tion is a step in the right di­rec­tion.

“The onus is on us as par­ents to get our chil­dren back in the fish­ery,” Jones said.

All three of his chil­dren — 13, 10 and eight years old — are in­volved with the fish­ery to some de­gree — from help­ing on the boat to gut­ting fish.

Like oth­ers, he moved away, but his con­nec­tion to the fish­ery drew him back be­cause it was some­thing his fa­ther in­stilled in him at an early age.

“I’m not driv­ing mine (chil­dren) like the old man drove me, but they will know how to do ev­ery­thing when it comes to a boat and a fish,” he said. “I’m go­ing to give them that op­por­tu­nity, that’s what we as par­ents have to do.”


St. Bren­dan’s har­vester Jamie Aly­ward says the big­gest de­ter­rent in the fish­ery is the set-up cost for new ap­pli­cants. The un­der 40-foot fleet in­shore har­vester stated build­ing an en­ter­prise from scratch can cost be­tween $200,000 and $300,000.

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