Recently, I was out for a little beachside ride on my quad near the once busy fishing community of Black Duck Cove, on Twillingate Island, when I noticed a Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) sign washed ashore on the beach.
The sign read “structure in disrepair — keep off.”
As I picked it up, I thought, not only a literal statement of the decrepit wharf which it had obviously been attached to, but a sad metaphor for the future of so many of our fishing villages.
So, I appeal to the members of our provincial government who adopted legislation and policy in the late 1990s which seriously diminished the traditional freedoms associated with a person taking over the family fishing enterprise.
As a result of such restrictions and roadblocks legislated by our own provincial government, many elderly fishers found it unrealistic and almost impossible to transfer an enterprise to a son or daughter who may have fished all their formative years. However, those family members were forced to go to Alberta or took another occupation during the lean years of the 80s and 90s.
Such an individual, due to the new policies adopted by the province, is required to earn 70 per cent of their income from fishing during the length of season in their area, in order for their experience on the water to count towards their eventually being able to take over an existing enterprise, family or otherwise.
Take the example of an elderly fisher with one small inshore crab quota of 8,000 pounds, a bit of cod and lobster.
A friend or relative, for example, whose work enables him/her to assist the four days needed to catch the small amount of crab and also finds time to help catch the cod and lobster, can do so year after year after year. But unless such a person quits his other job, they can never qualify to be a fisher themselves as the money usually from such helping hands would certainly not be a large percentage of a livable salary.
My urgent recommendation to our provincial members is to eliminate the 70 per cent clause, thus making it easier for an individual to be qualified to be a designated operator or to take over an enterprise. A restriction which also begs the question… is this possibly a violation of an individual’s rights and freedoms as granted under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Once a person is permitted to be designated or becomes a core fisher, then, in my view, it may be realistic to bring on the 70 per cent clause as a professional fish harvester. Otherwise, we are on a steep and slippery slope to the present 3,000 enterprises becoming 2,000, then becoming 1,000, and the wealth of the sea ending up in a few millionaires’ hands while the fishing villages, the heart and soul of Newfoundland and Labrador, become a fading memory.
Unless the pendulum swings back from its present point of the arc, the only person or persons taking over an enterprise as it changes hands will be a fish company or a wealthy fisher adding another quota and another vessel or two to the several already under his or her control.
This deserves careful consideration as the eleventh hour is upon us.
Respectfully, as one who cares.