To the eye, Larry Bailey’s boat is ready to test the saltwater around his native Wild Cove; in anticipation of the scallop season, he’d changed the oil and fixed his drag net.
However, given the revision of recreational scallop licences for 2017 by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Bailey said he isn’t sure if he’ll fish at all this year.
“I can’t go out. I used to love going out,” said Bailey, 83. “I’ve been dragging scallops since 1950. Now, old seniors like myself are just sitting at home.”
The issue lies with what DFO spokesperson Sam Whiffen identified as a revision to the licence.
The 2017 recreational scallop licence states that: “A drag rake means a device used in fishing for shellfish that is towed along the bed of water by a vessel, but does not include a hydraulic device or a mechanical device.”
To be clear, Whiffen highlighted via email that the Atlantic Fishery Regulations “have not changed” but have only been revised.
Under this clarified definition, Bailey’s boat is in violation of DFO’s regulations.
Bailey currently has a five horsepower Honda motor with a capstan on his boat to help him pull up his drag. He said that given his age, he needs the capstan’s help to haul aboard his catch but that the motor has no bearing on the actual drag.
“These hoists aren’t attached to the drag whatsoever,” said Bailey. “It’s just the same as if I had Hulk Hogan hauling everything aboard for me.”
Whiffen explained that DFO consulted with commercial lobster harvesters in 2016 to discuss recreational scallop fishermen using hydraulic and mechanical devices during fishing, resulting in this year’s revision.
“I feel like my dignity and rights have been taken away. It’s discrimination,” he said of the revision.
Bailey said that although he can understand lobster fishermen being upset by rakes, he doesn’t think his set up should be affected.
“We have no lobster at all in Baie Verte harbour. Even if there was lobster, the dragging alone would disturb the bottom, but not the hoist for hauling in,” he said.
In an attempt to get clarification about the changes, Bailey has reached out to the office of Dominic Leblanc, the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans, as well as provincial and local fisheries offices. He has also sent out a letter outlining his concerns.
Furthermore, Bailey and several other members of the fishing community have met with Brian Warr, the MHA for Baie Verte-Green Bay, to air their grievances.
Speaking to the Beacon, Bailey said he feels like very little progress has been made in accommodating seniors like himself who want to partake in the recreational fishery but who do not have the strength to do so without hoists.
Patricia Bailey, Bailey’s daughter, said that the restriction has had a major impact on her father.
“It breaks my heart to see my poor dad like that. He’s lived on the water his whole life,” she said.
Whiffen explained that DFO is planning an online consultation about the recreational scallop fishery for the fall of 2017. He said that the forum would give stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback, with more details being made available in the fall.
Still, there is the potential that a whole scallop-fishing season could be lost for Bailey.
“It’s depressing,” he said. “I had everything ready.”