Northern cod fall fishery a circus, breeding unrest and contempt between fishermen and fleets: FISH-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, Oct. 15th, 2018

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) calls FFAW/Unifor-orchestrated changes to this fall’s northern cod stewardship fishery a circus, and the most divisive to date. 

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“Make no mistake, the changes to the 2018 management plan came from the FFAW, and they’re breeding unrest and contempt between fishermen and fleets,” says Jason Sullivan, Captain of FISH-Nl’s under 40-foot fleet.

The 2018 management plan for the northern cod stewardship fishery off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador (fishing zones 2J,3KL) set the quota at 9,500 tones, and gave inshore harvesters two options: Option 1 — fish the entire season at weekly catch limits of between 2,000-3,500 pounds; or Option 2 — fish only during the fall (Sept. 30th-Nov. 3rd) at double the weekly limit.

Only harvesters who chose Option 1 to fish cod the entire season lost a week’s fishing in September when DFO — fearing the “maximum allowable harvest” was being approached — closed the fishery early. When it reopened, the weekly limits were reduced, but not in all fishing areas. 

Meantime, harvesters involved in the FFAW-Unifor’s cod quality program never lost any fishing time. The program — which involved 55 union-selected harvesters fishing up to 6,000 pounds a month on top of their weekly limit — was allowed to continue, taking more than 300 tonnes from the overall quota available to all harvesters. 

In yet another blow to harvesters who choose Option 1 to fish all season, DFO closed the northern cod stewardship fishery on Oct. 11 — three weeks earlier than expected, but left it open for harvesters who choose to fish in the fall at double the quota. 

“Tensions will be high among harvesters so long as DFO and the FFAW play them off against each other,” said Sullivan, noting few inshore harvesters will be at sea this week given the poor weather forecast.

FISH-NL recommends that DFO open the fishery to all inshore harvesters next week until the remaining northern cod quota is taken.

The FFAW’s cod quality project is run by the union’s Fisheries Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board (FSSSB), the same outfit that charges west coast harvesters $200 for halibut tags.

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Contact Ryan Cleary: 682 4862