Harvesters frustrated by DFO’s boat-length orders

Brandon Anstey banstey@ganderbeacon.ca
Published on June 27, 2014
Boat owners in the Central region have been venting their frustrations after being informed by DFO in 2013 their vessels did not meet the length requirements. A number of fishermen in the area have had to cut their boats in order to comply with regulations for the 2014 fishing season. — TC Media photo

A number of fishermen from the central region of Newfoundland are expressing frustration over having to cut length from their boats in order to meet requirements set by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The maximum length for the identified class of vessels is 39 feet and 11 inches and, according to Wayne Hull, that’s what his boat measured.

“I had mine done by Tri-Nav when they come out from St. John’s to measure in 2002; they measured from her deck line up to the stem,” said Hull, who fishes out of Twillingate. “I used her for 10 years and then, all of a sudden, they came back in 2012 to measure the boat again. They said it was too long, and I was going to have to cut it. In January, 2013, they gave me 12 months to get the boat ready for this fishing season. So far, there are six or seven in this immediate area that has been done, but I think there’s a lot that has to be done for the 2015 season.”

To be registered for the fishing season, vessel measurements must be submitted to DFO before being accepted. A naval architect, marine surveyor or a professional boat builder can make the measurement, and that’s where Tri-Nav, a marine consulting firm, comes into the picture. The discrepancy between Tri-Nav’s measurement and that of DFO’s is the cause for concern, said Hull.

“The thing is with us is the fact that DFO allowed that boat to be in the system for the past 11 years, and now all of a sudden I had to go cut her to meet regulations in time for the fishing season. You have to be a registered boat measurer before DFO will accept the measurement, so I hired a Tri-Nav to come measure the boat.”

The cost of getting the boat up to speed with regulations is one of the biggest shared frustrations among fishermen.

“It’s not making the boat any more seaworthy, and if anything it’s taking away from that,” said Hull. “It’s the expense because it’s not free to go down to the Marine Centre to get carpenters and fiberglass workers to do the job. It’s a job to keep up with it,” said Hull.

According to Kim Penney, a resource manager with DFO, boats are measured in overall length. While she couldn’t speak about specific cases, she said concern was raised a couple of years ago, which may be why some vessels were in the system so long before being investigated.

“In 2012 we did have concern from individual fish harvesters, specifically in the New World Island and Twillingate area,” Penney said. “They were coming to DFO, and they were upset because, ‘Why do I have to comply with the rules when there are others out there in my own community who are not complying with rules and have a larger vessel?’”

That’s when DFO began taking a closer look at some of the vessels in question, said Penney.

“We, as a department, needed to investigate, which we did. We looked at some boats that were considered to be potentially over their eligible lengths, and those individuals were given a letter. In that letter, they were given various options. They were asked to provide us with a new measurement to substantiate their vessel measure. If ... they were found to be over their length, they were asked to modify to bring them into compliance. Alternatively, they were asked to register another vessel that was within their vessel length eligibility.”

Penney said there was fair notice given to boat owners about the process.

“We gave everybody a year to comply with that, and in that year we also allowed them to fish their enterprise. That year was up in April of this year. So the expectation now is that these individuals who we have identified, we would expect them to comply with one of the three options we provided.”

John Anstey of Cottlesville is one of the vessel owners given those three options when he and his wife received the letter in March of 2013. The measurements of their vessel were registered as 39 feet 11 inches in the 2008 fishing season. However, like other boat owners, the Ansteys were informed measurements taken by DFO officers were in dispute with those taken by Tri-Nav in previous years. According to John’s wife, Jennifer Anstey, fisheries officers in the area told them not to cut their boat until the situation was resolved and the couple’s frustrations addressed.

But that resolution never came, said Jennifer. The couple had to get another boat for the 2014 fishing season, as their original vessel was frozen in this winter’s thick ice. Because of that ice, it was next to impossible to get to and modify their original vessel for the 2014 fishing season, said John. The costs have overrun.

DFO understands the frustrations, Penney said, but there are certain measures put in place to make sure harvesters are fishing fairly.

“This is an ongoing issue. These concerns have been raised elsewhere, and it’s being dealt with in exactly the same manner because we need to level the playing field for the ‘less than 40 feet’ fleet. These are multi-species enterprises, and there are still competitive fisheries, so we need to maintain these fleet barriers through proper management and control.

“Capacity can give you a competitive edge. ... then one of our roles here at DFO is to maintain that balance between capacity and the resource.”


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