This past summer DFO denied an official request from Fortune-based inshore enterprise owners to buddy-up in the 3Ps lobster fishery. On the upside, DFO has outlined what it will take to change its policy — an “official industry proposal that demonstrates broad support for the change.” At least the goal line has been set.
According to DFO's latest stats, there are 510 lobster licence holders in the 3Ps fishing zone off Newfoundland's south coast — including 262 in area 11 (Fortune Bay west) and 248 in area 10 (Placentia Bay). Over 99% of the 3.5 million pounds of lobster landed in 3Ps this year were landed in area 11.
DFO's hasn't elaborated on a clear definition of "broad support," but to be on the safe side I would say a clear majority of lobster licence holders in area 11 (where most 3Ps lobster are landed) would have to sign off on buddy-up for it to happen.
SEA-NL is prepared to poll lobster fishermen, and DFO has provided a list of licence holders.
But the department still isn't making it easy.
An official says an official request would have to be made at the next 3Ps lobster advisory meeting, but that's not set to take place before the start of the 2026 season — between fall of 2025 and early 2026.
That's not good enough.
It's clear DFO has to get out of its own bureaucratic way. (A point that SEA-NL is also prepared to make.)
THE CASE FOR BUDDY-UP IN 3PS LOBSTER
There's a strong case for buddy-up in 3Ps lobster, which was made to DFO in July by husband and wife enterprise owners Paul Snook and Pam Patten.
Buddy-up is a temporary arrangement that allows two lobster license holders in the same fishing area to operate from the same vessel registered by either of the fish harvesters.
Reasons to support buddy-up include economics (buddy-up reduces overhead costs), safety (harvesters can choose to fish on a larger vessel), crewing (it’s difficult to recruit crew in the lobster fishery), and environmental impact (one boat has less of an impact than two).
In the lobster fishery buddy-up is authorized in lobster fishing areas 12, 13A, 13B, 14A, 14B, and 14C, but not 10 or 11.
Buddy-up is also allowed in the snow crab fishery in 3Ps.
In response to the official request by Snook/Patten, DFO said a meeting of its lobster advisory committee was held on Jan. 12th of this year, but a buddy-up request that was tabled at that time did no receive "consensus or clear support" among harvesters.
In the end, DFO did not make policy change to allow for buddy-up, but at least the 3Ps lobster fleet knows what must be done to change it.
Stupid question, why — in the year 2023 when DFO only wants to communicate with licence holders through NOLS (the national online licensing system) — the department does not allow for the electronic polling of licensed enterprise owners on major policy issues like buddy-up?
Stupid answer: it’s probably not DFO that won’t go for it, so much as the FFAW-Unifor that wants the union executive to have the final say.
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. If you have any issues contact me at email@example.com or 709 682 4862.