Experimental Redfish Fishery Brings Hope to Gulf of St. Lawrence Harvesters

Along with other species of groundfish, redfish is a species that is making its comeback in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Redfish is a lesser known species, but it meant a lot to our communities in the 80s and 90s for fishermen and plant workers alike. It’s also a promising opportunity for fish harvesters like myself who have been badly impacted by the declines in the Northern shrimp fishery.

It was the good signs of recruitment that led me to reach out to the FFAW with an idea to prepare for a new redfish fishery using new methods. Like cod, a new redfish fishery will look very different than it did three decades ago. Using sustainable methods to reduce our levels of bycatch and undersized fish, we have a unique opportunity here to build a sustainable fishery from the ground up.

The species of redfish we want to target is called mentella. Our union discussed the issue in detail during three 4R3Pn mobile fleet meetings since early 2018, including a presentation by DFO redfish biologist Caroline Senay last summer.

All 4R3Pn license holders had an equal opportunity to apply unless they applied individually and some chose to make investments in new gear as testing different gear was part of the project. Part of the funding rules is that each organization and harvester contribute to overall program costs. There ended up being a total of three license holders that applied to participate, myself included.

This initial test fishery is at a time when redfish are still small in size and it’s unknown what kind of prices will be paid and what fish will be available. It’s for that reason that the FFAW has the use of fish quota for the experimental fishery and harvesters will be paid a guaranteed charter payment regardless of the price or availability of fish.

Anything made on the fish sales will be covering costs for the project that the union is paying for up front.

The experimental test fishery gives us a chance get this fishery off on the right foot. It will be a few years before we may see a commercial redfish fishery, but with fish harvesters as stewards of our resource, we’re determined to do it right.

Rendell Genge
Anchor Point, N.L.

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