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It's not uncommon for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to grant extensions to fishing seasons, a department official told TC media today.
Sylvie Lapointe, Director General of Fisheries Management with DFO in Ottawa, says the extension of the fishing season for offshore trawlers in 3Ps is not an ‘out of the ordinary’ occurrence.
“Due to poor weather conditions the 3Ps fishery was extended by six days, to midnight on March 6.”
She says it’s not uncommon for DFO to receive extensions for fishing when there is bad weather, and extensions have been granted in the past to the inshore as well as to the offshore fleets.
Lapointe added the extension to the fishing season applies, in this case, to all 3Ps fishermen that would normally have access to that cod fishery.
She added the boats in the offshore fleet include a boat operated by Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove.
“The fish, as I understand it, that are harvested by Icewater will benefit plant workers as well, who are members of the FFAW.”
The says the other vessels are owned by Ocean Choice International (OCI).
She says science also advised that this six-day extension of the fishing season won’t have an impact on the cod stock in that area.
“From our perspective, less than 45 percent of the Canadian allocation of cod has been taken for the year (in 3Ps). So it’s not a question that we are in an overharvesting situation.”
Lapointe added the offshore fleet had asked for a two-week extension, because poor weather had impacted their ability to fish.
“Originally they had put in a request for two weeks and what we felt was an appropriate compromise was six days,” she said.
As for the ‘broken promise’ alleged by the FFAW regarding the extension to the fishing season, Lapointe suggests the union is referring to discussions around a pilot project that was in place last year.
She noted that in 2015 the DFO conducted a test — through a pilot project — to see if fish in 3Ps were spawning in March in the Halibut Channel, which is the main fishing area on the south coast.
“We did some testing in March, April and early May and the results showed there was no spawning at that time in March.”
The pilot project allowed fishing in the zone during the entire month of March, she said.
“Based on a number of considerations we decided we would not continue that pilot project.”
She says the fishing industry was informed last March that the project would not continue, essentially meaning there would be no fishing the area in March.