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DFO says no issues with Gulf halibut fishery; poll suggests otherwise

Mind you, it's an unofficial Facebook poll on the Newfoundland Fisherman’s Forum,

but 75% of respondents (80 votes) said they should be allowed to fish their halibut quota in the Gulf anytime between June and October; 22% (24 votes) said they want a vote on the issue; and less than 4% (4 voters) said they're happy with the status quo.

The unofficial poll above was posted on the Facebook group, Newfoundland Fisherman's Forum, on Sept. 3rd.

Inshore owner-operators from the province's west coast who fish in the Gulf have access to a small, 1,700/lb halibut quota that they must catch during one of five, two-week blocks of time they had to choose earlier this past winter/spring.

Only the weather wasn’t fit for all of those weeks, and some harvesters didn’t catch their halibut. SEA-NL wrote about it here: Bad enough Gulf halibut fishermen have to choose in spring when to fish in summer.

And if the halibut quota wasn't caught during the two-week window it's lost to the harvester — raising the issue of safety.

Putting harvesters in a position whereby they could potentially go out in poor weather or lose their quota is a recipe for disaster. The loss of four fishermen in 2016 from Shea Heights is a prime example.

While SEA-NL has taken complaints from more than a dozen owner-operators in recent months about the halibut fishery (and harvesters have told DFO in the past they need longer fishing periods in order to avoid severe weather), the department said it isn't aware of any recent issues.

On Sept. 3rd, SEA-NL received this message from DFO: "To date, we have not received a formal request from industry for a season extension and our staff have not received any calls from harvesters indicating that they have been unable to catch their fish (due to poor fish quality, lack of buyer capacity, weather, etc.)."

SEA-NL posted the poll on the Fisherman's Forum that same day.

Harvesters say they stopped complaining to DFO because when they did they were told to take up the issue with their union.

On behalf of inshore owner-operators who fish in the Gulf, SEA-NL will send a formal request to DFO today asking that they be permitted a vote on the length of next year's halibut season.

As of Aug. 29th, the province's inshore fixed-fleet has landed 86% (835,000/lbs) of its 967,000/lb quota, with a fifth two-week fishing period for the fleet scheduled for October.

Ryan Cleary,


Independent licensed owner-operators are encouraged to join SEA-NL here. These blog posts will be public for a limited time, before becoming exclusive to the membership.

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