The fishery was a hot topic in St. Anthony this past week, as inshore harvesters offered their insights on the industry’s future.
On March 12, at the St. Anthony Lions Club, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) hosted a consultation with harvesters from area 3K, the fishing zone on the eastern side of the Great Northern Peninsula.
Inshore harvesters were given the opportunity to discuss issues surrounding groundfish, shellfish, pelagics, the vessel replacement policy, and the future of the fishery.
The meeting was hosted by David Small, DFO resources manager for 3K; John Lubar, area director; and Sheldon Eddison, fishery officer.
Harvesters in attendance made it clear they did not want to see any cuts in the crab quota given the year they just had.
St. Carol’s fisher Chris Rose questioned why DFO was recommending a 30 per cent cut in area 3K.
“I can’t see it. I got all the information from the past four or five years of science research, and 3K is levelling off, perhaps there’s a slight increase, and they want a 30 per cent cut,” he told the DFO officials.
Rose felt the fishery looked so good in 2018 he was considering getting another license.
Small answered there was no significant decline in stocks according to the science and DFO was aware catch rates were up in 2018.
He says the 30 per cent cut was a suggestion and with that cut, there could be growths in the stock.
Goose Cove fisher Maxwell Sexton also said snow crab catch rates were strong in 3K in 2018 and there was no soft shell.
He says in sub-region 3A, three or four years ago it was hard to get your quota. But since then, it’s been strong every year.
“Year before last, they increased a nice lot again and last year it was really good,” he said.
Sexton informed Small there was very little soft shell as well.
Small answered the bottom temperature of the water has been shown to be colder and this makes for better crab.
The overall snow crab quota in 3K increased by two per cent in 2018 to 5,932 tonnes from 5,794 tonnes the previous year.
Some debate among fishermen centered around the “overlap” between fishing area 3K and area 4R, specifically around 4R harvesters fishing around Quirpon Island on the very northern tip of the Great Northern Peninsula.
Some of the 3K harvesters in attendance suggested 4R harvesters were allowed to catch cod in parts of area 3K, including during periods when the entire area was closed for 3K harvesters themselves.
Fishermen in attendance referred to the area as “the overlap.”
They were concerned the fish caught in the overlap comes off of the 3K quota, not the 4R quota.
A number of 3K harvesters in attendance felt it would be fairer to either open “the overlap” to both 4R and 3K harvesters or to close it to both groups during these periods; either this, or 3K harvesters should be allowed to fish in 4R when the 4R season opens in the overlap area.
However, 4R harvester Carl Hedderson, of Noddy Bay, argued 4R harvesters are not allowed into 3K when 3K is closed; they will only fish in the overlap when 3K is open.
He says 3K harvesters in attendance were mistaken about this.
Hedderson believes 3K harvesters were also mistaken in believing that 4R fishing around Quirpon Island was being conducted in the overlap when 3K is closed. He insists the area they fish around the island, when 3K is closed, is, in fact, under 4R and not 3K.
Therefore, he says what the 4R fleet is doing is of no harm to the 3K harvesters and feels the overlap is only there to help the 4R fleet.
“The overlap, when it was established again, that helped the fishermen out in this area, that at least they had a little bit of cod to fish,” Hedderson told The Northern Pen. “Before that, fellers would never even get enough for top EI.”
He says he would be in favour of opening up an overlap area in 4R for 3K fishers.
New entries in fishery
North of Fifty-Thirty Association (NOFTA) co-ordinator Jerome Ward brought forward concerns over the ability of young fishermen to gain a core enterprise.
Ward felt this was a serious concern for the future of fishing communities on the Great Northern Peninsula, in the area covered by NOFTA, from River of Ponds to the tip of the peninsula and to Englee.
He says his research paints a dire picture.
“The projection we get is that a good 10 per cent (of those 57 communities) will be gone in the next five to 10 years and, after that, they will go even faster,” he told DFO officials.
Ward believes something needs to be done to help new fishers enter the industry.
“The problem today is that nobody wants to support anybody new going in,” he said. “So, most people who want to go in don’t have funds and there’s nowhere to get funds.”
He says this has led to more and more licenses falling into the hands of wealthy fishermen and companies.
“It’s left the door wide open to rich fishermen and companies to invest in and buy up all the licenses, that’s what’s happening,” he said.
Ward wanted to see a mechanism put in place to help local inshore fishermen raise funds to purchase core licenses.
Englee fisher Ronald Patey says his son Brad wants to enter the fishery but there are too many obstacles in his path.
Brad has to work as a crewman fulltime for five years to qualify for a core enterprise.
If it was two years, Ronald says it would be doable.
“That would be a good thing, he got bills, he got a mortgage, he got a car, he got a ski-doo and I can’t afford to fish five years and give him an income to survive on,” he said. “But two years, you might be able to do it. And then he’s on his own, he can take the boat and go on and do what he can.”
He believes after two years, you should be able to grandfather the next generation into the fishery.
“If union and DFO don’t change some policies, the fishery will be history,” he said.