Industry Stunned by Crab Quota Carry-Over

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In the recent issue of The Navigator (March 2013 edition) we had an exclusive story that has generated serious buzz in the fishing industry.

For the first time EVER in the history of the NL snow crab fishery, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will allow a crab harvester to catch a significant portion — 50 per cent to be exact — of last year’s (2012) quota during this year’s (2013) fishing season.

It’s absolutely unprecedented, and a decision that gets made right at the very top of the department.

It’s called a quota carry-over and it’s something that a lot of people in the industry have probably asked for over the years but been turned down. A great many more probably didn’t even know such a thing existed. But now they do. And things might get interesting from here on out.

First off, let me say I do not question or fault the harvester in this case for asking for a quota carry over from DFO. In this case, from what I can gather, the licence holder was unable to catch any of the 2012 quota as a result of issues with the vessel and getting it ready for the season. So with the whole 2012 season lost, that harvester approached DFO to ask for — and subsequently received — the carry over. It was a legitimate request, and one most reasonably minded people would have made given the circumstances.

But what it does is open a pretty monstrous can of worms.

In this case, DFO says the harvester claim was totally legitimate and that there were no conservation issues attached to the request, therefore the go-ahead was granted.

DFO is also going to take cover behind the fact that these decisions are “fleet based.” What that means is that DFO will allow the entire fleet to catch uncaught quota from last year. The caveat to that fact, however, is that the fleet in this case is only a few vessels, and they are fully aware that every single other licence holder in that fleet caught their full quota in 2012. So while that will be a convenient talking point, it doesn’t change the impact of the decision and the fact that it is now public knowledge.

Oh, and guess what? Crab isn’t the only fishery that has quota carry-overs. Apparently the 3NOPs4VWX + Area 5 Atlantic halibut and the seal fishery have similar measures (although the maximum carry over for seals is 20 per cent).

You have to feel badly for the local heads and the resource managers at DFO who will now likely face a raft of requests and questions from harvesters based on this decision made well out of their purview.

In a year when the federal government is cutting local offices, moving all licensing services online, downloading the cost of gear-tags and observers to harvesters, and a host of other changes and issues to cope with, I’m sure this was the last thing the local DFO souls and the fishermen themselves needed.

Oh, and I think this is the part where I try to turn a buck and pay a few bills by saying “Make sure you pick up the March edition of The Navigator for the full story.” #supersalesman

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