SPRINGFIELD WEST -- In his years as president or director of the Prince County Fishermen’s Association, Shelton Barlow has outlasted 19 ministers of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Shelton Barlow proudly displays the trophy he received last weekend at the Fish Canada Workboat Canada trade show in Moncton where he was declared Atlantic Canada’s mariner of the year. Barlow has been a director with the Prince County Fishermen’s Association for 37 years, 30 of them as president.
The Springfield West resident, who fishes out of Howard’s Cove, says being PCFA president brought him in contact with many influential Canadians. He met most of those former DFO ministers as well as at least two prime ministers.
Barlow has been a director with the PCFA since 1977 and served as its president from 1979 until 2009.
Along the way he made an attempt to get into provincial politics. “They didn’t want me,” he chuckled, “so I decided I’d stick with fishermen.”
Trying to get a fair deal for the fishermen he represents, he said, has been his mission. He lists the lobster co-management plan early in his involvement with the PCFA, and the more recent lobster rationalization plan, including the deal to buy out and retire licences as two of the highlights of his years with the association.
All of his work with and for fishermen earned Barlow entry this year into the Atlantic Marine Industries Hall of Fame as 2014 mariner of the year. He received the special recognition during the recent Fish Canada Workboat Canada trade show in Moncton. The Navigator Magazine and Master Promotions Ltd. sponsor the award.
Lee Knox, the current president of the PCFA, the organization that nominated Barlow for the special honour, said Barlow is very deserving of the recognition. “He always performed as a good leader for us,” Knox said.
Barlow admits being thrilled to get the recognition and said he enjoys working for the industry.
There have been some challenges along the way, he acknowledges, like carapace increases, hoop sizes and escape mechanisms. He remembers how fishermen resisted going from eight-inch hoops to six-inch hoops on their lobster traps. Fishermen are not allowed to land the big lobsters any more, he said, so the smaller hoops are no longer seen as an issue. As for the escape mechanisms, Barlow said his association pressed for the slots in the traps so that little lobsters could get out. Other fishing districts initially opposed the escape mechanisms but he doubts anyone would want to fish without them. He believes the escape mechanisms and the smaller hoop sizes are two key reasons for the increase in lobster landings.
Barlow started fishing as a hired man in 1968. He bought his own gear in 1971, but with lobster prices and landings both low he soon sold out. He fished two more years as a second man before getting back into the fishery as a captain. He started out fishing the Wendy Shawn and later had the Victor Roy built. Since 1987 he has been captaining the Strait Fisher.
Barlow rates the current Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea, as one of the better ministers he’s dealt with. “She worked for us,” he said. “She understands the fishing industry better than a lot of the ministers. I think we’re fairing out fairly well with her.” He credits Shea for the lobster rationalization plan and equates other ministers with other high points or low points in the industry, such as the first crab quota, work on harbour repairs and the divisive carapace size increases in the lobster fishery.
Barlow is pleased with the work his association did in negotiating the lobster rationalization program which enabled some fishermen to exit the fishery and reduce the effort on lobster stocks, “That was a big job to get it through government,” he acknowledges.