Nfld. & Labrador

Halibut fishery gets big investment from province

The provincial government is investing more than $100,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador's halibut fishery.

The provincial government is investing more than $100,000 in Newfoundland and Labrador's halibut fishery.

This comes as welcome news for fish harvesters who have been complaining for years that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been imposing far too many fishing restrictions on them.

They say that DFO's conventional trawl surveys have failed to pick up on the halibut explosion in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in recent years. Many feel this has resulted in halibut quotas that have been much lower than they should be.

Fish harvesters, especially on the west coast of Newfoundland, have been waiting for a break in what has been nothing but bad news since the collapse of the cod stocks in 1992.

"It's phenomenal actually, the explosion of that stock in recent years," said Earle McCurdy, President of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union. 

"It's all part of a regime shift that's happening in the ocean. And we should be taking advantage of it."

Assessing the stocks

The investment from government will provide both satellite and conventional tagging of halibut.

The tags will provide valuable information on the behaviour and migration patterns of the fish.

More than 220 fish were equipped with conventional tags this year, two dozen of which were with satellite tags.

The hope is that it will confirm what fish harvesters have been saying for years, that there are thriving halibut stocks in the gulf.

The tagging is a local pilot project designed to come up with a better way to assess halibut numbers, and will provide valuable information on the behaviour and migration patterns of the fish.

Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Vaughn Granter is optimistic that the funding will help ensure the viability of the province's halibut fishery for years to come.

"This work will provide important information to support fisheries management and to assist in a sustainable management plan for this stock well into the future," said Granter.

Dominique Robert is a research scientist at Memorial University's Marine Institute. He feels the tagging program could potentially lead to a more prosperous halibut fishery in the future.

"DFO is looking into the possibility of funding a Gulf-wide program, and this would become the index the stock needs to get good quotas," said Robert.

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