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With change to fishing vessel length locked in, SEA-NL sets sites on DFO leasing policy

It took a few years of shoulders to the wheel to help convince the federal powers that be to increase DFO’s maximum vessel length policy for this province’s inshore fleet to 49’11 from 39'11 (which will happen in 2023), and the next policy up for change is leasing.

DFO plans meetings this winter to hear from enterprise owners on the leasing policy, although meeting dates have yet to be announced. Fishing boats tied up on the south side of St. John's harbour.

Between mid-February and early June this year DFO held virtual Zoom meetings around the province to hear first-hand from harvesters — particularly about vessel-length regulations, with the vast majority in favour of change.

Then in June DFO announced the policy will change next year to 49'11, and the department also revealed its intentions to bring in a consistent registration policy for Atlantic Canada/Quebec.

DFO's fishing vessel registration rules in Eastern Canada are all over the map.

In the Maritimes and Quebec, once a vessel is registered with a licence, that registration must be in place for at least 30 days before a different vessel can be registered to that licence.

In the Newfoundland and Labrador Region, once a vessel is registered with a licence, that registration must be in place for 12 months.

For Indigenous/communal licenses, the registration time line is one day.

DFO's registration policy is meant to reinforce the "guiding principle" of owner-operators in that the individual issued the license fishes the license.

However, the longer registration time puts Newfoundland and Labrador's inshore fleet at a competitive disadvantage.

In 2017, a House of Commons committee study of DFO vessel length and leasing policies recommended the department streamline and standardize vessel policies across the East coast, including leasing and transfer policies.

Onwards and upwards.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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