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Inshore harvesters voice concerns at DFO outreach meeting in Marystown

<p>These boats have for years primarily targeted crab. Soon things might change.</p>
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) held an outreach meeting in Marystown for inshore fish harvesters Nov. 21.

Fishers offer lots of ideas to better handle quotas, bycatch

MARYSTOWN, NL – The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was in Marystown Nov. 21 for one of their series of outreach sessions for inshore fish harvesters in the province.

The meeting gave fishers a chance to voice some of their concerns on issues affecting the fishery, and offer their ideas for solutions on some of those issues.

Cod allocation was a hot topic among harvesters who gathered at the Marystown Hotel and Convention Centre. One issue in particular that caused a lot of debate was how a harvester could apply for a “bump” in their quota before they had completely fished their original quota.

A bump is an additional quota a harvester can purchase from DFO on top of their original quota.

While some suggested a harvester should have to fish their full quota before being able to apply for a bump, others say they should be able to apply once they have caught 75 per cent of their quota.

Halibut

The bycatch fishery was another topic that led to some heated decision.

There were a number of suggestions on how to help ensure all harvesters get a piece of the action.

One suggestion was to divide the total allowable catch (TAC) for halibut into quarters, and to stagger the times when harvesters can go out and fish.

Another suggestion was to remove the 200-pound restriction on bycatch and change it to a percentage of the license holder’s quota.

For example, if a harvester had a quota of 15,000 pounds of cod, with a bycatch rate of three percent, it would mean they could catch 450 pounds of halibut.

Outside buyers

Another suggestion raised at the meeting was to allow outside buyers to purchase fish from inshore harvesters. One person said by allowing outside buyers in, new fisheries could be created.

This issue has been a longstanding one among fish harvesters.

However, it is a provincial regulation, not a federal law, that prevents outside buyers from coming into the province, or fish landed locally from being shipped out for processing in another province.

The DFO will continue to hold outreach meetings through December and into the new year around the province.

According to an public advisory from the department, their primary goal is to “hear harvesters' concerns with a view to working with them to develop feasible solutions.”

colin.farrell@southerngazette.ca

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