GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL — There’s nothing to restrict fishers from talking about issues they have regarding fisheries management, rules and regulations at upcoming meetings scheduled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
DFO representatives will be in Central and Eastern Newfoundland over the next couple of weeks — starting in Baie Verte on Jan. 16 and ending in Petty Harbour on Jan. 25 — to meet with fishers.
Ron Burton, area director for DFO Eastern, Central and Labrador, will chair the meetings.
The meetings have no set agenda, he said, noting that when he met with fishers in St. Anthony before Christmas he advised them, “This is your meeting, not my meeting.”
That means anything can be thrown out for discussion or comment, he said in an interview.
“We want to get out and hear from fishers . . . the people who are depending on the fishery to make a living,” he said, adding, “I’m sure there are ways we (DFO) can improve and we’d like to hear feedback — good or otherwise — on what we’ve done, and how we can improve, how we can change.”
He says while DFO has to make decisions in the interest of conservation and sustainability of the fish resource, fishers have to make a living and the department needs to understand their perspectives.
The other thing that’s different about these meetings is location.
In the past DFO would usually host meetings in central locations — Gander, St. John’s, Corner Brook and Grand Falls-Windsor — and fishers would have to travel to those locations.
For the upcoming meetings, Burton said, the intent was to get out to the places where fishers live.
There’s no meeting set for Gander, for instance. But there are meetings set for Twillingate and Fogo Island, as well as Hare Bay, Bonavista and other rural locations.
DFO held similar meetings in the fall for fishers in the 4R and 3Ps fishing zones, as well as in St. Anthony.
After this round of meetings Burton will be heading to the south coast of Labrador for a couple more meetings to wrap up the process. Dates and locations will be determined soon.
From the comments and suggestions collected at the meetings, Burton says the department will review what it heard and complete a report based on comments and suggestions from fishers.
“We may not be able to incorporate every suggestion we heard, but I’m sure there are things that we’ve heard already, and will hear, that we can work on and make happen.
“So we want to hear all opinions,” he said.
MEETING DATES AND LOCATIONS
Baie Verte: 6-8 p.m. at the Baie Vista Inn
Twillingate: 6-8 p.m. at the Twillingate Lions Club
Fogo Island: 10 a.m. to noon at the Anglican Church Hall
Hare Bay: 10 a.m. to noon at the Hare Bay Fire Hall
Bonavista: 2-4 p.m. at the Bonavista Lions Club
Shearstown: 10 a.m. to noon at the Shearstown Lions Club
Ferryland: 10 a.m. to noon at the Southern Shore Folk Arts Centre
Petty Harbour: 6-8 p.m. at the Petty Harbour Fishermen’s Centre