For the sixth time since September, 2021 the captain of a Faroe Islands longliner has been issued a “notice of infringement” for an illegal fishing violation on the tail of the Grand Banks just outside Canadian waters. The notices were issued by DFO Fishery Officers during six separate inspections, once at sea and the remainder when the ship unloaded halibut in Bay Roberts.
A Canadian Coast Guard vessel photographed from the deck of the Faroe Islands longliner Bordoyarnes. This picture was shared with SEA-NL in 2021 by the vessel's captain, Christian Mathisen. Vessels from the Faroe Islands and Greenland fly under the Danish flag.
The "notices of infringement" against the captain of the Bordoyarnes were issued on Sept. 3rd and 16th, 2021, as well as May 17th, May 23rd, June 2nd, and July 1st of this year. DFO only recently updated its website on the most recent four infringements.
The notices were all categorized as "serious" as they relate to the misreporting of catches (the four this year involved failing to maintain a logbook; the two from 2021 related to not properly recording discards) while the longliner was fishing halibut in fishing zone 3N on the tail of the Banks.
After each inspection the longliner was allowed to return to the fishing grounds.
Foreign fleets continue to have a devastating impact on migratory stocks such as cod once they swim over the 200-mile limit, the imaginary line that separates Canadian waters from the high seas.
Unlike most countries, the continental shelf off eastern Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador) extends beyond 200 miles, leaving migratory stocks vulnerable once they cross over to international waters.
Those international waters are managed by NAFO, or the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.
Under NAFO rules, Canadian enforcement officers can issue “notices of infringement” for illegal fishing violations, but it is up to a vessel’s home country to actually follow through with an investigation/charges/penalties.
Which makes NAFO a joke, unable to enforce the quotas it sets.
Christian Mathisen (right), captain of the Bordoyarnes, contacted SEA-NL in September, 2021 after a post was published about the initial two notices of infraction levelled against him.
Mathisen said the infractions were more of a misunderstanding in that discards don't have to be recorded in the Faroe Islands.
Mathisen repeated the same message this week, highlighting the positive impact his fishing business has on the Bay Roberts economy.
The halibut is sold to the United States, but he said more than $1 million has been spent this year in the Bay Roberts region from the purchase of ice, provisions, fuel and other services.
He said he has a good relationship with the locals, with plans to expand the business over the next five years.
Mathisen also said longlining (a commercial fishing technique involving thousands of baited hooks) doesn't hurt commercial stocks, pointing that blame squarely on offshore factory-freezer trawlers that drag the ocean bottom.
Video provided from Christian Mathisen.
Mathisen said “pirate” trawlers are destroying the Grand Banks by directing for moratorium species such as cod and other illegal fishing activities, and if the overfishing continues "there will be nothing left."
While Fisheries and Oceans is said to be aware of what’s happening, Mathisen said enforcement officials told him their hands are tied because Covid-19 protocols prevent Fishery Officers from boarding and inspecting foreign factory-freezer draggers.
SEA-NL will have more on those allegations in the next post.
As for Mathisen, his openness as the captain of a foreign fishing vessel is refreshing, and welcome — as is his business.
But that doesn't change the fact that NAFO is useless/toothless at overseeing stocks outside 200 miles, that the Government of Canada has failed miserably to protect the Grand Banks, and management/regulatory reform is desperately needed to secure the future of the commercial fisheries.
NAFO's uselessness isn't new. I wrote the below column in 2006 when I worked as editor-in-chief of The Independent, a St. John's-based provincewide newspaper (2004-2008).
Executive Director, SEA-NL
Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization representing licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters in the province. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.