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Northern Peninsula harvesters say policies need to change for younger people to get involved in fishery

St. Anthony and area harvesters expressed the need for younger people to get involved with the fishery at a Dec. 6 meeting with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Some pointed out current criteria is making it nearly impossible for young people to have an economically viable route into the industry.
St. Anthony and area harvesters expressed the need for younger people to get involved with the fishery at a Dec. 6 meeting with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Some pointed out current criteria is making it nearly impossible for young people to have an economically viable route into the industry. - Kyle Greenham

ST. ANTHONY, NL – The most heated topic of discussion at the recent fisheries meeting in St. Anthony was the pressing need for more young people in the fishery.

Harvester Kevin Newman stood before Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) representatives, saying this issue is a priority that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

“Just look at the faces here tonight,” said Newman. “Ten years from now if this don’t change, you’re going to come down here for a meeting about the fishery and it will be all empty seats.”

The youngest face in the crowd, Brad Patey, detailed his frustration in trying to enter the fishery as a young man with a family and home to take care of. He says it seems obstacles are in place to make it nearly impossible for a man in his situation to become an inshore harvester.

To qualify for a core enterprise, Patey says he must first work for five years as a full-time crewman, making only $10-15,000 a year from it.

“And if you’re holding a full-time job outside of the fishery, you’re disqualified immediately,” Patey told the representatives. “How can a young man with two kids and a mortgage get into the fishery with the way it’s set up right now?

“The way it is now, a man can be an astronaut before he can be a fisherman.”

According to Newman, this five-year criterion was put in place in the 1980s when there were too many people involved in the fishery. He said it was a deliberate effort to discourage new or potential harvesters.

When pressed on how a person in Patey’s position can get into the fishery, the DFO representatives could not provide an answer.

Ron Burton, DFO area director for Grand Falls-Windsor, says the issue of who aging harvesters will sell their enterprises to in the future has been a dominant conversation in meetings across the province. He says it’s clear the criteria are in urgent need of revision.

“If this was put in place at a time when we had too many fishers for too few fish, we seem to have the opposite problem today,” he said. “We need to take a second look at what our options are.”

Patey acknowledged that education and experience are crucial to taking on a core enterprise, but that at-sea experience is not being considered under current guidelines.

Two possible solutions were discussed: reducing the current five-year criteria to one year, or allowing crewmen to work a second job and still qualify as a core enterprise.

“The question now is, how do we maintain the integrity of having an inshore fishery – with individuals who have their own enterprises and self-sustaining businesses – without it being controlled by large corporations?” said Burden.

There is considerable interest from young people across the Northern Peninsula to get into the fishery, participants said. But without proper changes, most will not be able to make it economically viable.

Everyone in attendance agreed it was a top-priority issue to ensuring a future for Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishery.

“Getting young people is the solution,” said Newman. “We’re going to run out of people fast if we don’t do something about it.”

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kyle.greenham@northernpen.ca

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