The federal government has delayed the introduction of an online licence system for thousands of fishermen due to technical problems.  

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is closing the front office of licencing centres across Canada in an effort to reduce costs. Fishermen will have to make an appointment if they wish to speak directly to staff.

The new $3-million dollar national web-based system was supposed to go live on Jan. 1, but that's been pushed back until some time in March.

"We've slowed the process to do end-to-end testing," said Gus van Helvoort, executive director of Fisheries Modernization at DFO.  

Each fisherman will get an individual pass code so they can look at their holdings, renew licences and make payments online.

Van Helvoort said those pass codes will be issued in March as the department deals with "complexities" integrating data that is recorded differently in different parts of the country.

"We were experiencing problems," van Helvoort told CBC News. "The software itself works, the difficulty is getting the data from six regional systems into one system and that's the work we do on a daily basis."

Van Helvoort said he's confident DFO will work out the bugs before staff are laid off at licencing centres at the end of March.

Fisherman Wayne Russell, from Three Fathom Harbour outside Halifax, is going miss the licence center in Dartmouth.

"Just walk in here with your renewal and bam, in and out," he said outside the Dartmouth DFO office. Russell said he will have to rely on a family member to help navigate DFO's online system when it starts up.

"My wife's got me trained on it a little bit. I can explore on Google, but as for filling out things she's going to have to help me," he said.

The online licence system is one of several changes being introduced in 2013 as the federal government transfers the cost of managing the fishery from taxpayers onto the industry.

Beginning in May, lobster fishermen will have to pay for lobster trap tags and find suppliers.