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Bad enough Gulf halibut fishermen have to choose in spring when to fish in summer

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

But when it blows for most of the two-week block that some inshore harvesters choose to catch their small 1,700/lb 2021 halibut quota — and they miss their one and only chance to catch that fish — then there’s a real problem.

This 2017 photo show halibut landed off Port au Port.

Such was the case with the inshore halibut fishery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (fishing zone 4R), and some of the Newfoundland harvesters who choose to fish from July 5-18th.

It blew for most of the last two weeks in the Gulf, and small-boat fishermen say they aren’t interested in fishing in 25-knot winds.

As one harvester put it, “there’s going to be a lot of cranky fishermen who didn't get their fish."

Many harvesters believe they should be allowed to catch halibut anytime in the June-October fishing season.

SEA-NL wrote about that here, and made the point that the issue could be an example of one worthy of an eventual vote by owner-operators.

According to DFO's rationale, lengthening the fishing season could result in lower individual harvest caps (1,700/lbs per fisherman in 2021) because more harvesters would have the opportunity to catch all the fish they're entitled to — thus eventually lowering the quota.

NL harvesters registered complaints with DFO about the halibut fishery in the Gulf during annual meetings with department officials. The below page is taken directly from DFO's report on those meetings in 2019.

As it stands, harvesters are put in a position whereby they either fish halibut when instructed — in possibly poor weather —or lose their relatively small quota, which sells for roughly $4.50/lb.

Meantime, harvesters from Quebec and the Maritimes who fish the same halibut aren’t governed by time restrictions. They also aren’t charged $200 (plus tax) for halibut tags, like NL harvesters are under the Atlantic Halibut Sustainability Plan.

That plan is run by the FFAW through the union’s Fisheries, Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board, hand-in-hand with DFO. The tags are distributed through the FFAW’s Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centres (FRC).

Ryan Cleary,


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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