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Baffin Fisheries to build Canada’s largest dragger; offshore sector sets sites on groundfish

It was only in 2020 that Ocean Choice International christened its new dragger, the Calvert, the first such vessel built for the big-boat offshore fleet since the 1980s. On Friday, Baffin Fisheries went a step further and announced the company is building what will be the country's largest dragger.

The $72.5 million, 80-metre (260-foot) stern trawler will be capable of carrying a max 1,320 tonnes of frozen turbot or 930 tonnes of northern shrimp, and is expected to be fishing by 2024.

The offshore sector (up to 49% of which is foreign owned/controlled) clearly sees money to be made in groundfish stocks such as cod and flatfish, but what has changed in terms of resource management/science since the early 1990s when so many East Coast commercial fisheries collapsed?

It's gotten worse.

Fisheries and Oceans no longer believes that years of intense offshore overfishing led to the collapse of such iconic stocks as northern cod. Instead, department scientists say the cause was a yet-to-be explained massive nature die off.

At the same time, there are signs that cod and other groundfish stocks are rebounding, particular.y on the southern Grand Banks.

The latest news comes from an unexpected source: Christian Mathisen, the captain of a longliner from the Faroe Islands (which, along with Greenland, flies under the Danish flag).

Mathisen, who's been fishing on the Grand Banks since 1991, said this past week that there's never been more cod outside the 200-mile limit in such fishing zones as the Flemish Cap.

"A longliner can fish up to 70,000/lbs a day out of the Flemish Cap and east side of (fishing zones) 3L and 3N," he said, adding halibut is stronger than ever, along with herring, tuna, swordfish, and sharks.

Mathisen said a longliner — which uses thousands of hooks to catch fish — “can never kill a stock," although he himself was issued two "notices of infringement" in September for illegal fishing,

He also said that 'pirate' foreign draggers are destroying the Grand Banks under the nose of Fisheries and Oceans whose enforcement hands are tied because Covid-19 protocols prevent Fishery Officers from boarding and inspecting the ships and their cargo.

Fish are said to grow faster on the southern Grand Banks than further north, and while signs of growth in various commercial stocks are incredibly encouraging, the impulse to pounce on them at the first signs of life must be fought.

The management and science must be sound at the very least.

They are not.

Canada may have an incredibly tough enforcement regime in its own waters, but as long as it's practically a fishing free-for-all outside the imaginary line in the water that is the 200-mile limit, it's useless.

Not to mention an insult to the inshore fleets of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And all the sacrifices made by NLers/Canadians over 30 years were in vain.

Ryan Cleary,


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