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Core vs non-core: should certain commercial fishing licences die with fishermen?

Updated: Jan 13

That debate is picking up in the Maritimes with so-called "Category B" lobster licence holders whose licences can’t be sold or handed down, and is spreading here in Newfoundland and Labrador with "non-core" fishermen whose groundfish licences also die with them.

According to DFO, at the end of 2020 there were 3,311 commercial fishing licenses in Newfoundland and Labrador — including 2,819 core (85%), and 492 non-core (15%). In 1992, the year of the northern cod moratorium, there were 20,021 full- and part-time fishermen.


All told, well over 500 aging fishermen across Eastern Canada are unable to transfer/sell their commercial fishing licences and retire. Many have deteriorating health and continue to work despite the risks.


The breakdown includes 80 fishermen in the Maritimes who hold Category B lobster licences, which cannot be transferred, leaving it to expire upon death of the holder.


Those licences were created in 1976 as part of a DFO policy that critics say unfairly targeted fishermen who — despite having a historical attachment to the fishery — held other jobs, and did not/could not depend on the fishery as their primary or sole source of income.


Some of those fishermen have launched a website and letter-writing campaign to various ministers, including Joyce Murray, the newly appointed federal Fisheries and Oceans minister.


The fishermen would accept a simple policy change allowing them to sell their licence or take a buyout from DFO.


The Navigator magazine also carried a recent piece: Class B lobster licence holders face injustices and unfair treatment.


That story/action has caught the attention of some of the 400-plus non-core licence holders in this province who also can't sell their licences, and are restricted to fishing in 28-foot boats, despite the risk factors associated with a fishery that extends later into the fall.


Inshore fish harvesters have registered their concerns with DFO before regarding non-core licences. "Harvesters feel that a groundfish license is groundfish license no matter what its designation."


Most harvesters don't have pension plans, and often use money from their sale of their licences to fund their retirement.


That can't happen with non-core licence holders, who also can't pass on their fishing licences, with many continuing to fish (despite their age) to put bread and butter on the table.


To that end, non-core harvesters are asked to e-mail SEA-NL at sea-nl@outlook.com so we can determine whether there's enough interest to start our own advocacy campaign.


Maybe there should be a rule change so that Indigenous groups — which have been buying up core commercial fishing licences with federal funding — can buy non-core licences.


Ryan Cleary,

SEA-NL


To sign-up for SEA-NL'S January founding convention go here. If you have need any assistance registering please contact Rose Genge at 745-8157.

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