A halibut issue impacts south coast fishermen

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For the last two years, fishermen on the south coast of Newfoundland have been put out of business in midseason because of what their union claims are unfair quota allocations by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Earle McCurdy

FFAW-Unifor President Earle McCurdy said the sharing of a halibut stock that lies in large areas off southern Newfoundland, as well as waters off Nova Scotia, short-changes fishermen from the south coast of Newfoundland.

McCurdy said landings by fishing 3Ps-based inshore enterprises (3Ps is the fishing zone off southern Newfoundland) averaged more than six per cent of the catch of this stock from 2001 to 2010, but DFO implemented new rules that has cut the share of the resource for the 3Ps fleet to 2.5 per cent.

He said the issue was taken directly to DFO Minister Gail Shea’s attention without any results.

McCurdy said some halibut quota holders do not actively fish their quotas, but sell them in the water to other resource users who need a quota to cover off incidental bycatch of halibut.

He said the problem is compounded by a DFO decision to leave the overall Total Allowable Catch (TAC) at a figure far below the level that could be supported by the most recent scientific evidence.

He noted DFO argues that other quota holders are recommending that the TAC be held at a low level.

“This is absolutely the wrong way to run a fishery,” McCurdy said. “Fish should be allocated to active enterprises, not to wheeler-dealers sitting on the wharf.”

He said halibut is a crucial component of a mixed-stock fishery in 3Ps. Without access to halibut, fishing becomes uneconomical. Prior to 2011, fixed gear enterprises in 3Ps could retain halibut up to 10 per cent of their total catch.

Geographic location: Southern Newfoundland, Nova Scotia

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  • Jim Kendall
    July 07, 2014 - 16:50

    You might like to believe that two countries like the US & Canada would realize that when resources are capped, particularly in the name of conservation, that they must do all that they can to prevent feudal ownership from becoming the norm! The caps imposed to protect the resource very often become nothing more than a form of resource rent to many holders, who do nothing to benefit those resources, all the while extracting resource rent from the actual fisherman. Neither Canada nor the U.S. is seemingly aware of the harm that comes from enabling what amounts to "resource slum lords" Jim Kendall - NBSC USA

  • Maggy Carter
    July 07, 2014 - 11:15

    We know that Gail Shea, federal minister of fisheries from PEI, is biased against Newfoundland and Labrador and the fishers of this province. Shea is just the latest in a long string of DFO ministers who see the fishery resources of this province as free-for-the-taking - a biomass booty from which she can pluck at will to reward her friends and allies in the maritimes and Quebec. Historic attachment and adjacency mean nothing any more to these federal pirates - indeed it is all part of a smack-down of Newfoundland enthusiastically supported by the prime minister himself. Call it vengeance - pay-back for having shut the Harper conservatives out in the last election. O.K., we get it that politicians in Ottawa don't give a damn about Newfoundland. But there are two other huge unanswered questions. Why is the Province so silent on these claim jumps? The Ottawa-appeasing, Harper-hugging premier is now gone - gone many months ago - and still we have no one with prairie oysters willing to stand up to the opportunistic Ms. Shea and her vindictive boss. Then there is the other big question mark. Does anyone else detect a subdued Earle McCurdy - one that has become very timid in speaking up for Newfoundland fishers. Why? What gives? This is a guy who until recently would have gone to the mats for local fishermen and plant workers. The answer, I suspect, is UNIFOR. The FFAW is now part of a much bigger union - some 300,000 members across Canada. So McCurdy now has the additional worry that doing the right thing for his Newfoundland members - like standing up to Ottawa - will be resented by UNIFOR's members in the maritimes. The bottom line is that there is no way anyone can serve two masters - and that's exactly the tight rope McCurdy and UNIFOR are now trying to walk. Newfoundland fishermen and plant workers need a union that represents their interests only - because their interests are inherently at odds with those of fishermen and plant workers in other provinces. At the very least, the media - when doing a story of this nature - need to be asking McCurdy how UNIFOR can effectively represent different jurisdictions that are in fierce competition for the same fish resources. There are no win-win outcomes when it comes to the allocation of fish quotas. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.