End the recreational fishery, says head of Association of Seafood Producers

The executive director from the Association of Seafood Producers is making a bold call, suggesting a full halt to the recreational cod fishery.

Derek Butler says he know it won't happen, but wants more accountability

Some groups are calling for more regulation of the recreational food fishery. (Submitted by Linda Kenny)

The executive director from the Association of Seafood Producers is making a bold call, suggesting a full halt to the recreational cod fishery. 

Derek Butler says the association is "not naive," and he doesn't expect the request to be carried out.

Instead, he hopes to make a bit of a splash, so the recreational fishery is held accountable. 

"Our position is a little more dramatic, and maybe we need to say that to get some attention. Not for us, but for the fish," he said.

Butler's stand has drawn criticism from boat tour operators, including Graham Wood, who runs boat tours in Lewisporte.

Wood called the idea "shameful," and said he's upset the association is trying to take away the "basic right to get a fish" and "put protein on the plate" of Newfoundlanders.

Numbers down, but is rec to blame?

After a hopeful few years with cod stocks on the rise, the count dropped by 30 per cent over the last year. 

In 2017, the stewardship fishery landed 13,000 tonnes of ground fish biomass, an estimated four per cent of the total biomass of the Northern cod stock.

Although the recreational fishery is smaller, the specific amount of fish removed is not known.

The food fishery is a huge draw in the province and something that draws people to boat tours in many rural communities. (Patricia Winsor Roberts)

Rather than leaving a question mark in the equation, Butler would prefer a tighter grip on on the recreational fishery. 

Butler argues that many fishers exceed the limit of five fish per day, which he said should be taken more seriously.

"Let's obey the rules, let's respect the limits, and let's get a handle on the removals."

Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, says the fishing industry is not to blame for slow stock recovery. (CBC )

Keith Sullivan, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, says the fishing industry is not to blame for the slow stock recovery and there should be a greater focus on natural causes for cod mortality, such as seals. 

But he agrees there should be more accountability in the recreational fishery.

"We need to have monitoring of the rec catch as well, because in some cases people say there's been some abuse and, you know, that's not acceptable for anybody."