A halibut issue impacts south coast fishermen

Published on July 7, 2014
Earle McCurdy

For the last two years, fishermen on the south coast of Newfoundland have been put out of business in midseason because of what their union claims are unfair quota allocations by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

FFAW-Unifor President Earle McCurdy said the sharing of a halibut stock that lies in large areas off southern Newfoundland, as well as waters off Nova Scotia, short-changes fishermen from the south coast of Newfoundland.

McCurdy said landings by fishing 3Ps-based inshore enterprises (3Ps is the fishing zone off southern Newfoundland) averaged more than six per cent of the catch of this stock from 2001 to 2010, but DFO implemented new rules that has cut the share of the resource for the 3Ps fleet to 2.5 per cent.

He said the issue was taken directly to DFO Minister Gail Shea’s attention without any results.

McCurdy said some halibut quota holders do not actively fish their quotas, but sell them in the water to other resource users who need a quota to cover off incidental bycatch of halibut.

He said the problem is compounded by a DFO decision to leave the overall Total Allowable Catch (TAC) at a figure far below the level that could be supported by the most recent scientific evidence.

He noted DFO argues that other quota holders are recommending that the TAC be held at a low level.

“This is absolutely the wrong way to run a fishery,” McCurdy said. “Fish should be allocated to active enterprises, not to wheeler-dealers sitting on the wharf.”

He said halibut is a crucial component of a mixed-stock fishery in 3Ps. Without access to halibut, fishing becomes uneconomical. Prior to 2011, fixed gear enterprises in 3Ps could retain halibut up to 10 per cent of their total catch.