Larger quotas for smaller boats

Brodie Thomas
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Commercial fisherman Paul Joy was closely monitored by a government helicopter last January as he fished for cod.

When he got to port, fisheries officials carefully weighed his catch and found him to be just slightly over his quota by weight. He was fined thousands and is still waiting to hear if he will be prosecuted.

Sounds familiar? Perhaps. But it didn’t happen here in Newfoundland. Mr. Joy was fishing from Hastings, on the south coast of England, when all this happened. His story and the problems other UK fishers face was in The Guardian earlier this month. It’s worth a read: (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/aug/08/fair-fishing-manifesto-quotas-europe)

Small boat fishers like Mr. Joy have had enough, and they’re partnering with environmental groups to lobby for a fair fishery in Europe. In a nutshell, they want smaller boats to get a larger share of the quota.

It only makes sense doesn’t it? Small boats employ more people. The wealth is spread around the smaller communities. Small boat fisheries are more environmentally friendly, and therefore more sustainable. It takes longer for small boat fishermen to catch a large quota spreading the work over weeks and months instead of days or hours it takes a trawler to catch a quota.

The statistics in the United Kingdom speak for themselves. Small boats are 77 per cent of that country’s fishing fleet, and make up 65 per cent of the full time work in the industry. In return, Small boats get four per cent of the United Kingdom’s fishing quota, according to the Guardian story.

In response to those numbers, an association for fishing boats under 10 meters and Greenpeace teamed up to publish a four-page manifesto calling for reform on the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy.

Now given Greenpeace’s track record on the seal hunt, you can be excused if you want to stop reading right here. But a good idea stands on its own merits. And lets face it we don’t hear a lot of new ideas coming from any level of government on repairing the fishery.

The manifesto has three main demands. One: Give the right to fish to those who fish the right way (i.e. sustainably). Two: Stop supporting destructive fishing practices. Three: Put the health of the oceans at the heart of fishing policy.

Many involved would like to see the UK’s small boat fishery get 20 per cent of the country’s quota, according to the story in the Guardian. That still leaves plenty for the big boats.

Given that Canada’s east coast fishery has already been decimated, perhaps this suggestion just wouldn’t work here. We haven’t seen the quota numbers broken down between large boats and small boats in this country, but it might be worth a look.

Regardless, it’s refreshing to see a nearby country with similar fisheries issues tackling the problem in a new way.

@Tagline: Brodie Thomaseditor@gulfnews.ca

Organizations: Greenpeace, European Union

Geographic location: United Kingdom, Newfoundland, England The Guardian Europe Canada

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