Time to change the cod fishery

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Lobster can provide a better model

The recent news of fish plant closures and talk of the importation of foreign workers; of annual halibut quotas being caught in one day while other fishermen lose their lives fishing halibut in the dead of winter; of limited quotas of cod with catch rates higher than they were in past years when fish were deemed to be plenty.

Those headlines and others like it indicate there is a serious problem with the management of fish harvesting in this province.

Here are some news clippings/facts I’ve read in the past year.

Oceanex is having a new, state-of-the-art container ship being constructed, a vessel that will be launched in Bremerhaven, Germany, this year.

Costco is selling semi-dry cod for $17 per kilogram, or about $865 per quintal.

The consumption of salt cod in Portugal, Spain and the West Indies is still quite high.

Since the advent of container traffic, goods can be sent anywhere in the world for between 40 and 50 cents per pound.

A quintal of dry cod can be produced from 400 pounds of fresh fish.

In the first half of this century, fishermen caught two or three quintals daily during the fishing season using hook and line.

Fishermen regularly phone “The Fisheries Broadcast” with stories of catch rates of cod in the quota fishery several times higher than they have ever seen.

There would seem to exist the possibility of increased commercial activity in this area which would be particularly beneficial to rural Newfoundland.

Unfortunately it will never happen.

The number of inshore fishers is only 2,000.

The federal government uses a quota management system.

The provincial government forbids a free market in the establishment of new plants, production facilities and innovative marketing ideas.

As Bill Barry stated on “The Fisheries Broadcast” last October, “I don’t think I’ll see in my lifetime a change in the regulatory system  that would allow us to harvest the riches of the ocean in a rational, efficient manner.”

My family was involved in lobster canning  at the turn of the last century.

There were no regulations, and by 1920, the stocks were seriously depleted.

The Dominion government closed the fishery for several years and, when it reopened, harvesting regulations were implemented. They have changed little since that time.

The lobster fishery has been a success every year for the past 90 years.

This successful fishery is a effort-managed system not a quota-based one and is based on a few core principles: control the effort, both in number of harvesters and type of gear, require live release of the young, protect the spawning biomass; and have no quotas.  

Imagine instituting a management plan for the hopefully returning cod that could last successfully for 90 years as our forefathers did for lobster. Let’s call it “the lobster model.”

Barry Darby writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Costco

Geographic location: Bremerhaven, Germany, Portugal Spain West Indies Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Cyril Rogers
    March 20, 2013 - 11:44

    Perhaps A BUSINESS MAN could show some courage, identity himself and his business, and then allow the poor suckers who support him in St. John's the freedom to choose whether or not to boycott his enterprises. If not, he is just blowing smoke and not worthy of further debate.

  • a business man
    March 20, 2013 - 08:47

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with the recent news of fish plant closures and talk of the importation of foreign workers. I see nothing wrong with annual halibut quotas being caught in one day while other fishermen lose their lives fishing halibut in the dead of winter. Those are both two headlines that scream efficiency. From a balance sheet point of view, there are few things that are more efficient than finding cheaper labour and by doing the work of one year in one day. The workers are the causalities of efficiency, and I am perfectly okay with that. Foreign workers are cheaper, and the job is certainly not a skilled job. So since anyone is capable of doing the job, it only makes sense to get the best value for money. Why should anyone pay locals more when the foreigners will do the same job for less? I certainly would not. The best point made by the author is that there are 2000 inshore fishermen left. As far as am concerned, the interest of 2000 people is not important to the overall functioning of our province. They are less than 1% of our population, which means they make a minimal contribution to our economy and our tax base. It also means that they do not have the votes to do anything. The majority of citizens are in not in rural Newfoundland, so as long as we all vote in our personal self interests, we can continue to ignore rural Newfoundland and make sure the interests of the majority come first. Personally, I oppose this article because I support the use of foreign workers, and I therefore completely support this government and its decisions. Furthermore, the author says that there would be more commercial activity if the fishery was run differently. Well, I don't want rural Newfoundland to have commercial activity. I want all the commercial activity to be in the city, because that is where my businesses are. Increased commercial activity in rural Newfoundland does nothing for me, so I oppose it. Now, if rural Newfoundland fails and dies, then my businesses in the city might get more customers because more people will move to the city. At the end of the say, I am completely selfish and looking out for my own best interests. That is my right as a taxpayer, citizen and voter.

    • Steve
      March 20, 2013 - 09:21

      Wow, I hope you're not real. Imagine if everyone thought and acted like you? It would be a much colder, more brutal world. Pure selfishness may be rational, but living in society, for most people, is not a math equation.

    • barry darby
      March 21, 2013 - 13:43

      Re "A Business man"s comment on efficiency. Anyone in business should know that investing capital and set-up in an activity that you are going to use for only day is highly inefficient. Corner Brook Paper is efficient because it runs 24-7. If you have a Company, lets call it NFLD Inc. and you hire outside workers instead of utilizing your own staff you are wasting money and being less efficient. The "minimal contribution" that harvesters make to the economy is just under one billion dollars.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    March 20, 2013 - 07:14

    Ideas that fly in the face of both the federal and provincial government's industrial fishing model are ignored and/or dismissed by both the bureacracy and the politicians. Big industry controls both.