While support grows for increasing to 50 feet from 40 feet the length of inshore fishing vessels, DFO heard Wednesday night it's also not right that owner-operators who hold non-core groundfish licenses are restricted to 28-feet given many are near retirement age, and weather/wind conditions are worse every year. So much for safety.
DFO has scheduled a virtual outreach meeting for this evening, 7-9 p.m., for harvesters in NAFO division 4R,3K — Great Northern Peninsula. This is the link to the zoom meeting: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/85045937470?pwd=Nmt1dTZYYm0yUThmakx1MkZCdFBRUT09
Non-core groundfish licences can't be sold/handed down, and die with the license holder. There are other restrictions, as well as efforts by SEA-NL to change the non-core policy.
While concern was expressed that bigger boats will create an appetite for larger quotas (taking fish away from the over 40' fleet), more owner-operators said that's not the case — and safety must be paramount.
"We don’t want bigger boats to go after more quota. We want peace of mind."
Safety at sea is impacted by worsening weather/wind conditions, which DFO was told about again Wednesday evening in a virtual outreach meeting with harvesters who fish off the island's west/southwest coasts (fishing zones 4R3Pn).
"I haven't seen the wind like this in my lifetime," said one owner-operator. "Old men have never seen it."
DFO says there are roughly 2.200 owner-operators in the under 40' fleet, plus more than 600 in the greater than 40' fleet.
Department officials plan to poll all owner-operators (from both fleets), on changing the vessel-length rule in the coming months.
COMBINING LOBSTER LICENSES
Another issue on the Great Northern Peninsula is the combining of lobster licenses, which harvesters in areas like Port Saunders have lobbied for.
With few young harvesters around the area, along with the increasing cost of lobster licenses, there's support for combining.
A DFO official said licensing combining isn't allowed in competitive fisheries like lobster, but to date the department hasn't received a formal request. (DFO may have one in its hands before the week's out.)
TWO-WEEK HALIBUT WINDOW
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.
If the halibut quota isn't caught during the two-week window it's lost to the harvester — raising the issue of safety.
SEA-NL latest piece on the issue was posted in September: DFO says no issues with Gulf halibut fishery; poll suggests otherwise
A DFO official said if the fishing weeks are extended more harvesters may take part in the halibut fishery and lower the overall quota.
But DFO can't have it both ways — safety is either No. 1 or it's not.
When asked why fishermen in NL aren't permitted to sample herring at the wharf (like in some parts of the Gulf), instead of at sea (which often leads to the release of thousands of dead fish), a DFO official said the reason is because there's no "dockside monitoring" in western Newfoundland.
Only there is dockside monitoring, and the official probably meant to say there's no grading for herring in western Newfoundland.
There's grading for snow crab, and other species, but not herring — which means the graders could be trained to look after herring, too.
Grading falls under the jurisdiction of the Fish Harvesters' Resource Centres (or FRC), a division of the FFAW.