A SEA-NL petition calling on government to hold province-wide public consultations on the obstacles to becoming an inshore enterprise owner was presented last week in the House of Assembly — building pressure on the Andrew Furey administration to hear directly from fishermen/women.
Independent MHA Paul Lane, representing the land-locked provincial district of Mount Pearl, presented the SEA-NL petition last week in the provincial legislature. The House of Assembly has since closed for the summer, but more names will be presented in the fall.
Launched in April, the petition also calls on the province to review the Professional Fish Harvesters Act, which governs the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board (PFHCB), the governing body over professionalization in this province's inshore fishery.
The FFAW and PFHCB are pretty much one and the same (the two reside together in the Richard Cashin building on Hamilton Avenue in St. John's, with both names on the mortgage).
The process to become an owner-operator takes five years, during which time a perspective skipper must complete certain courses, and earn a minimum amount of income from the fishery. If they work full-time outside the fishery over the five-year period they're disqualified.
INSORE FISHING LICENSES COST FORTUNE
Fishermen have complained for years that the certification criteria are too stringent, and that it is too difficult to pass on fishing licenses within families. Another issue is the financing of an inshore enterprise, which can easily reach $500,000 on the northeast coast.
Provincial Fisheries Minister Derrick Bragg denied a SEA-NL request last year for a review of the qualifying criteria, although approved some changes recommended by the PFHCB itself without consulting inshore harvesters.
According to DFO, since 1997 when the PFHCB was created the number of licensed fishermen in the province has dropped by 74% from 13,294 to 3,453 today, and destined to fall by another 15% as non-core licenses (which cannot be sold or transferred) drop off.
PC MHA Craig Pardy also presented a petition recently to the House of Assembly calling for a review of the PFHCB criteria for becoming an owner-operator.
Ryan Everard of Petty Harbour (seen here in this Telegram photo from April 9, 2011) is a third-generation fisherman who's fished every summer since 1999, has all the credits and time on the water to take over his father's inshore enterprise, but doesn't meet the qualifying criteria.
Anyone can fish, but not anyone can become an inshore enterprise owner.
Again, the petition will continue to gather more names for presentation to the House in the fall.
The House of Assembly only accepts paper petitions, so please print off, sign, and circulate. Then mail back to SEA-NL at the address provided.
Executive Director, SEA-NL
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization that serves as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. Visit sea-nl.ca to join.