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‘All we did was make an ugly boat’

That’s how an owner-operator summed up chopping off a perfectly good 43-foot boat to fish in the inshore under 40’ fleet. The seasoned fisherman told a virtual DFO outreach meeting Thursday evening that he had a 39’11, but she was too narrow to fish 50 miles off — taking three trips to bring out all 300 crab pots.

This is not the "ugly boat" mentioned above, but an example of a fishing vessel that's been severely modified.

So the fisherman bought a 43-footer, spent $30,000 to take off the head to save space for gear at the stern, and all he ultimately did was make "an ugly boat" that's square to the water.

DFO held four virtual outreach meetings this past week — with the question of vessel length specifically on the agenda — and the vast majority of owner-operators spoke in favour of extending the maximum vessel length in the inshore fleet to 50 feet from 40 feet.

Safety is the obvious No. 1 consideration, a point made again and again Thursday by harvesters on the Great Northern Peninsula (fishing zones 4R/3K).

Restricting an inshore boat to 40 feet doesn't make sense in that while DFO regulates vessel length, the department doesn't regulate vessel width — and vessels that were built 16-feet wide in the early 1990s are built up to 28-feet wide today.

Newer under 40' vessels today have greater capacity than older 65 footers.

DFO says there are roughly 2.200 owner-operators in the under 40' fleet, plus more than 600 in the greater than 40' fleet.

Department officials plan to poll all owner-operators (from both fleets) in the coming months on the vessel-length rule — whether it should be changed or not.

The inshore fishermen of Fogo Island.


Safety was also raised as the reason to allow for buddy-up in the stewardship cod fishery. One owner-operator spoke about being unable to find crew other than his teenage grandson.

"If the skipper falls overboard, I don't have a hope in hell," he said, adding allowing him to buddy up with another licensed fishermen to catch his cod would be far safer.

For its part, DFO has said allowing for the buddy-up policy in the cod fishery would increase participation rates and drop the overall weekly limit.

There are a rising number of examples of DFO policy that goes against safety, including time-limits to catch halibut or the quota is lost, and non-core groundfish license holders restricted to 28-foot boats as many near retirement age and weather/wind conditions worsen.

DFO's virtual outreach meetings are scheduled to continue Monday (Feb. 28th, 7-9 p.m.) in fishing zone 3L, including Bonavista, Trinity and Conception bays.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director,


To read more about SEA-NL, and for owner-operators to join please visit our website or e-mail

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