While the crab fishery officially ended on July 30, many harvesters left their final pots of the season in the water until now because of rough weather conditions.
Late Tuesday evening, however, fishermen received calls that due to the delay in taking up their pots, any crab caught would have to be thrown back in the ocean.
It was the cause of mass frustration that sent over 18 harvesters outside the DFO office the following morning.
Fisherman Wilf Alyward was chosen as spokesperson for the group. He said he would rather be collecting his pots and getting paid for his final catch of the crab fishery, but instead he is waiting for answers with other disgruntled fishermen.
“They’re saying we got to throw away the crab, the crab that were starving for,” said Alyward. “Everybody out there got a couple thousand dollars of bait in those pots, and now we have to throw it all away. It’s pretty sick, that’s what I call that.”
Aylward is hopeful the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union will step up and grant the harvesters a permit to take out their pots and be paid for the crabs inside – most of which were caught before the season had officially ended.
“We’re paying them to work for us. They’re taking it out of our cheques anyway,” Alyward said. “So hopefully they do something.”
When he got the word Tuesday evening, Alyward says the DFO office in St. Anthony was just as surprised that he was that they couldn’t keep their crab. He says field supervisor Sheldon Eddison stayed extra late that evening to see if there was a way to overturn the decision.
As of Wednesday evening, neither DFO nor the union provided any answers on whether the harvesters will be able to keep the crabs within their pots.
Aylward said he will keep his in the ocean another day.
He says it would be different if the fishermen had already met their quotas, but due to harbour ice remaining in the Northern Peninsula shores until late in the spring, most crab harvesters have not be able to do so.
This protest is the latest in a number of issues that has left many fishermen like Alyward feeling an increased disconnect between harvesters, DFO and the FFAW.
“We need more flexibility. It’s the fishers that know these grounds,” he said. “We ought to have more say in when we go and when we stay.”