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Should NL halibut fishermen in the Gulf be forced to choose in advance which weeks they fish?

At least one fisherman says no, but the question is an example of the kind of issue that could be voted on by owner-operators, as proposed by SEA-NL

An inshore fisherman from Newfoundland’s west coast says harvesters should be allowed to fish halibut any time between June and October — and not restricted to a two-week window that they’re forced to select months in advance.

It’s a valid point — one that’s been been raised in recent years, with particular emphasis on safety or lack thereof— and an example of an issue that could be put to a future vote for owner-operators to ultimately decide.

SEA-NL supports membership votes on key issues (read about it here), similar to votes held by other owner-operator associations in the Maritimes.


In 2021, NL licensed harvesters who fish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (fishing zone 4R) have access to 1,700/lbs of halibut. Back in March, harvesters had to choose one of six, two-week periods to fish it.

One fisherman chose the weeks of July 5-18. Last week the wind was up, and while the weather’s good today, the forecast is for more wind over the next few days.

The fisherman is put in a position whereby he either fishes halibut when instructed — in possible poor weather — or lose his relatively small quota, which sells for roughly $4.50/lb.

Meantime, harvesters from Quebec and the Maritimes who fish the same halibut aren’t governed by “crazy restrictions.” They also aren’t charged $200 (plus tax) for halibut tags, like NL harvesters are under the Atlantic Halibut Sustainability Plan.

That plan is run by the FFAW through the union’s Fisheries, Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board, hand-in-hand with DFO. The tags are distributed through the FFAW’s Fish Harvesters’ Resource Centres (FRC).

NL harvesters registered complaints with DFO about the halibut fishery in the Gulf during meetings with department officials in 2019. The below page is taken directly from DFO's report on those meetings.

According to DFO's rationale, lengthening the fishing season could result in lower individual harvest caps (1,700/lbs in 2021) because more harvesters would catch all the fish they're entitled to, and could result in higher dockside-monitoring costs.

I'm still scratching my head on that one.

Inshore harvesters also raised concerns with DFO in 2017 about the Gulf halibut fishery. Read the report here.

Below are two pages from that report.

It's clear that while inshore harvesters who fish halibut in the Gulf have expressed concerns to DFO for years, nothing's changed.

A democratic vote by owner-operators would increase the pressure on DFO for the change they're looking for.

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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