Top News

Lots of inshore issues to talk about at DFO meeting in Shearstown

Eastern Newfoundland DFO director Ron Burton speaks at Wednesday’s meeting with inshore fish harvesters in Shearstown.
Eastern Newfoundland DFO director Ron Burton speaks at Wednesday’s meeting with inshore fish harvesters in Shearstown. - Andrew Robinson

Bycatch rules, vessel size restrictions, oil exploration among topics discussed

SHEARSTOWN, NL — Wednesday’s meeting in Shearstown for inshore harvesters was filled to the brim with conversation, as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans allowed the event to continue well beyond its planned two-hour duration.

The discussion covered an array of topics, from the future of bycatch to qualms about size restrictions for vessels and the potential for oil exploration to harm marine life.

Chad Payne, a harvester from Old Perlican, brought up the bycatch issue. He said it seemed wasteful for harvesters to get rid of perfectly good fish, and noted too Iceland has a system in place addressing the lawful landing of bycatch.

“Why do we have to be destroying all this fish all the time,” he asked DFO officials Wednesday.

Ron Burton, DFO’s director for eastern Newfoundland, said allowing harvesters to land bycatch could start a trend where harvesters target the bycatch. He suggested this scenario could prove to be a real threat to species more financially lucrative than the product an operator is licensed to harvest.

Jason Sullivan, a Bay Bulls harvester who also serves on the executive for the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador, pointed out Iceland takes half the landed value of bycatch and invests it in fisheries science. Burton agreed this approach would reduce the monetary value of bycatch.

There was a lot of discussion centred around size restrictions in the fishery and license holders of smaller vessels forced to share the fishing grounds with larger boats. Todd Bailey, a groundfish harvester with an uncle among his crew members, said that uncle has a license to harvest fish with a 28-foot vessel.

“He’s watching boats gone out in September, October and November, and you’re not going out there in a 28-foot boat fishing groundfish with nets. It’s only an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “We’ve got a 39-foot boat and we’re still within the inshore sector. Why can’t they be bumped up? 28 feet ain’t cutting it. It was alright when it was three weeks in September years ago, but now it’s spread out from June right up until December. Fair is fair. If you’re a core fisherman, then good enough. But if you’re a non-core fisherman and you’re a crew member aboard a boat, then you’ve got to be looked after too.”

Patricia Williams, resource manager for licensing policy and fisheries management with DFO in St. John’s, said they’ve heard a lot of complaints about the size restriction for non-core license holders and safety concerns.

“It is one of the policies that our team is actively having a look at,” she said. “We’re here to listen to people’s concerns at all of these meetings … I’m not saying we’re going to change the policy, but I’m saying we’re actively listening and we’ve heard that concern.”

There was a solid turnout for Wednesday’s DFO meeting at the Shearstown Community Centre.
There was a solid turnout for Wednesday’s DFO meeting at the Shearstown Community Centre.

The issue of seismic activity also generated some healthy discussion. Fish, Food and Allied Workers union staff representative John Boland claimed there are areas where harvesters cannot “put out a hook,” yet seismic blasting for oil exploration is permitted.

“This whole thing smells, and it don’t make sense, and there’s no way anyone can try to go around it,” he said.

Avalon MP Ken McDonald, who also attended Wednesday’s meeting at the Shearstown Community Centre, said he had brought up the issue in Corner Brook last week with a special assistant to the federal fisheries minister.

“That was asked to him, about the oil exploration that’s taken place in this closed area, and he said to me — and I will ask the minister for a direct answer — was that FFAW knows full well there’ll be no oil exploration where there’s no fishery allowed,” said McDonald.

Following another gathering Wednesday night in Riverhead, the inshore outreach meetings are scheduled to wrap up Thursday in Ferryland and Petty Harbour.

SEE RELATED:

'Bonavista area fishers meet DFO'

'DFO rep says agenda for meetings to be determined by fishers'

editor@cbncompass.ca

Recent Stories