GARNISH, NL — Garnish fisherman Preston Grandy says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) decision to open the 3Ps cod fishery to draggers will have a negative effect on inshore fishers.
The DFO announced late on the Friday afternoon of Nov. 10 that the 3Ps zone would be open to draggers as early as the next day, Nov. 11.
Both the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union and the FISH-NL group were immediate in their objection to the decision.
According to the FFAW, a recent stock assessment of 3Ps cod indicates the stock will likely fall to the critical zone within three years.
Earlier this year the DFO set a quota of just 6,000 tonnes for 3Ps — half the quota of the previous year.
Grandy says large vessels should not be given access to the inshore cod fishery.
“The stocks now are in bad enough shape,” Grandy told the Southern Gazette, “with DFO science saying the stocks are at an all-time low – they (draggers) shouldn’t be allowed on the banks, especially during pre-spawning season.
“If they catch the fish before it comes into the bays, then we are not going to have the chance to get at it,” said Grandy.
He also questions how much bycatch will be caught by the draggers fishing cod, since there will be halibut in the area where draggers are fishing.
“They got the halibut they can get at while they’re up there on the grounds spawning – we’re not allowed to touch it, so are they going to be given a quota for that too?” he asked.
For Grandy, there’s a sense of unfairness.
“We have very limited quotas and they can go catch away with it.”
Grandy said he is only able to fish 18,000 pound of cod.
He adds the size of the fish is also of concern.
“(Cod are) the smallest I’ve ever seen in the bay, so the stocks are not getting bigger – we’re only seeing smaller fish, there’s no bigger fish coming around no more.”
He added if draggers catch those smaller fish before they have a chance to grow and spawn, “Then there’s no future to the fishery.”
Grand Bank fishermen Wayne Meade is also unimpressed with DFO’s decision.
“The fishery has never been closed down for the offshore fleet. They’ve been always steady go – it is only the inshore fishermen that got booted out of the fishery,” he told the Southern Gazette.
Meade said in the past he was allowed a 10 per cent bycatch of halibut, but that was reduced to three per cent in recent years.
“OCI and the draggers – they still got their 10 per cent bycatch of halibut year-round.”
Meanwhile, he’s seen his cod fishing quotas decrease, to less than half from the previous year.
“Last year I had over 400,000 pound of cod fish. This year I got 112,000.”
In the past, when the quota is set below the 10,000 tonnes threshold, offshore trawlers have been removed from the fishery, FFAW-Unifor noted in its objections on Nov. 10, and calling for the same standard to be applied.
Meade also wonders why — if the stock was in bad shape this Spring to the point where quotas were pulled back — all of a sudden the stock can support a dragger fishery.
Meade says DFO hasn’t learned from past mistakes.
“DFO don’t learn . . . draggers is what destroyed the Newfoundland fishery, and now they’re putting them back in every year bigger and heavier than ever.”
Meade said he doesn’t see the decision helping anyone.
“It seems like everything now is give to the big companies and the fellers that started off the fishery, the inshore fisherman is left with nothing.”
Winter secured for plant workers
ARNOLD’S COVE — The cod quota for the 3Ps fishing zone was set earlier this year at 6,500 tonnes, half of the 13,000-tonne quota for 2016.
When DFO announced the quota reductions in May, the department said it would engage with offshore fleet representatives to "determine an appropriate way forward in light of the challenging circumstances faced as a result of declining resources in a changing ecosystem.”
The announcement last Friday means at least one cod fish plant, Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove, Placentia Bay, can assure employment for its 200 workers through this winter.
"We have a 12- to 14-week window that we're primarily dependent on cod from offshore 3Ps," Alberto Wareham, president and CEO of the plant, told The Packet last week.
That window, Wareham says, is from mid-November through to early March. Following the announcement, Wareham says workers should expect to work through to early March as in previous years.