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DFO listening seriously to harvesters concerns during outreach meetings, director says

Ron Burton, area director for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), says a series of meetings set for this month aims to collect suggestions from fishers on any concerns they have about DFO policies and decisions.
Eastern Newfoundland DFO director Ron Burton. - SaltWire Network

Information garnered from harvesters during inshore outreach meetings conducted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is being taken into consideration in the decision-making process, assured eastern Newfoundland director Ron Burton.

For the second year in a row, DFO is holding face-to-face meetings with fishers in Newfoundland and Labrador. The sessions started last week in Bonavista, Hant’s Harbour, Trepassey, Clarenville and Bauline with more scheduled in other areas of the province this week and in the weeks ahead.

“It is taken seriously and we will take it seriously in the future,” Burton said of what harvesters have been telling DFO during the meetings. “It’s very important that we get that feedback and we understand that perspective.”

Burton and John Lubar, DFO’s director for the southern, western and Straits area, are once again conducting the meetings.

The outreach meetings held last year are considered the first time DFO had met with harvesters in such a way in many years.

Burton says his office and the resource managers he deals with referred back to notes and comments that came out of those sessions numerous times in the past year when trying to make decisions.

That includes openings and closings for fisheries as well as giving harvesters more advanced notice of those dates.

“That’s something we’ve been challenged with, but we’ve discussed that many times,” Burton said.

DFO released “What We Heard: A Discussion on the Newfoundland and Labrador Fishery” a couple of weeks ago based on last year’s outreach meetings. It took nearly a year to come out. That was longer than DFO officials had wanted, Burton said.

The feedback from fishers on the document during this year’s meetings has been limited, he said, as harvesters haven’t really had a chance to review it yet.

“We will get it out this year much quicker,” he said.

Burton indicated a wide variety of questions and comments were received last year and a lot of effort went into making sure they gave the best responses possible. He feels it’s a good document that can be built on this year.

“There was a lot of people involved in the creation of that document. It certainly wasn’t just one or two people,” Burton said.

Burton said 124 fishers attended the first five meetings last week, with lows of eight in both Clarenville and Bauline to a high of 45 in Trepassey.

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