ALBERTON -- Members of the Western Gulf Fishermen’s Association, during a meeting in Alberton on Thursday, voted 86 per cent in support of a proposal to eliminate new entrant requirements for the lobster fishery and 70 per cent in favour of a proposal to allow existing fishermen to buy out the license of another fisherman from the same port.
Eighty-seven fishermen voted on the proposals which WGFA president Craig Avery said were drawn up in response to concerns from fishermen approaching retirement age who worry no one will be available to buy their fleets.
An effort reduction component is built into the proposal calling for changes to the lobster licensing policy. While a regular license carries 300 license, the proposal would allow one fisherman to acquire another license and fish 525 traps – 75 fewer than two full licenses. Two fishermen could team up to buy another license and add 112 traps to their fleets, a reduction of 76 traps. Fishermen would have two years to sell any additional licenses in their names.
As in the past, two fishermen could form a partnership and fish 450 traps, but in this case, both owners would have to be on the vessel.
“These changes, if adopted, will improve the economic viability, open the market for licenses, contribute to conservation, and is of no cost to government,” the WGFA wrote in its proposal.
‘If adopted,’ is key, though. The proposals still must receive Department of Fisheries and Oceans approval.
It gives an opportunity for retiring fishermen, more options, for being able to sell their licenses - Craig Avery, President, Western Gulf Fishermen's Association
David Lewis, a member of the Lobster Fishing Area 24 advisory committee, advised that fishermen throughout the LFA were interested in the WGFA proposal and would give it consideration if endorsed by WGFA membership.
“The way we came up with the numbers, if you bought out somebody else, you lose 75 traps, so you think, ‘it’s not worth as much as a 300-trap license,’” Avery explained to members, “but the way we thought about it, with 75 traps gone, you have one less boat, probably one less man… so you would have a lot less expense, insurance, a couple thousand dollar a year or more. We took that into consideration.”
Abandoning the new entrant policy, Avery explained, means new entrants would not have to provide proof of having been aboard a boat the previous two years.
“It gives an opportunity for retiring fishermen, more options, for being able to sell their licenses.” he said. Age is a factor, he admitted. “There is about 60 per cent of the fishermen right now between 55 and 65. Well, in the next 10 years there’s going to be 60 percent, roughly, of the fishermen ready to exit the fishery, if they retire at 65. Who are they going to sell to? We’re taking a proactive approach.”