PORT HOPE SIMPSON AND CARTWRIGHT, NL – Labrador harvesters voiced their concerns about the fishery during meetings with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Port Hope Simpson and Cartwright on Wednesday, Feb. 7.
DFO has been engaging with harvesters across various remote areas of the province, holding its tenth and eleventh meetings in Labrador last week.
Ron Burton, DFO area director for Eastern, Central and Labrador, says harvesters at the Port Hope Simpson and Cartwright meetings were concerned about many similar issues.
He told the Northern Pen that cod, turbot and crab were the main species discussed, with a sharp focus on the availability of fish specific to Labrador.
“It’s a shorter season up there,” said Burton. “The cod fish aren’t around for longer periods, so they need larger weekly limits – that’s what we’ve been told.”
With the wilder and colder terrains of Labrador waters, harvesters also discussed a buddy-up system to reduce expenses, such as sharing quotas on a single vessel. Having to often travel further distances to get their catch, there was also some discussion about options for larger, over 40-fleet vessels.
Cartwright fisherman Curtis Heard has been fighting for some time to have his concerns addressed regarding the < 40’ Inshore Affected Cod/Crab Fishers Cartwright to Lodge Bay Committee. Accusations have been ongoing alleging some boats allotted to this committee’s shrimp allocation are improperly registering the size of their boats.
Heard says he received confirmation at the Cartwright meeting that DFO has been investigating these claims and says there are currently 10 boats under investigation.
Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, Burton could not comment until the investigation is complete.
Capelin has been a recurring topic at some of DFO’s meetings, and Burton says the Port Hope Simpson and Cartwright harvesters were relieved to hear the announcement that capelin surveys will now be conducted every year. Many in the area believe capelin stocks are plummeting, which could have a serious ripple effect on other species such as cod.
“Some fishers say there is not enough capelin and we should stop fishing them, so the science will help us determine that,” Burton said.
As well, harvesters commented on the need for a policy where any additional quotas should be accessed first and foremost by those who are most adjacent to the resource.
Twenty-four fishers attended the Port Hope Simpson meeting on Wednesday morning and 16 attended the afternoon session in Cartwright. For such small and remote areas, Burton says the turnout was a good sign.
DFO will hold its twelfth and final meeting in Fogo. Burton says the meetings have been a tremendous learning experience for the department. DFO plans to take information gathered from these meetings and determine how to apply it to future policy.
“This is not a meet, write it down and forget it exercise,” said Burton. “It’s about us now assessing where our priorities are, what are the common themes we’ve heard, what are some of the really strong points, what can we change – that’s what we’re going to look at now.”