The federal government’s acting fisheries minister Gail Shea is slated to hold a conference call Thursday afternoon, Nov. 15, with local officials in Grand Manan where frustration and anger over licences and who is getting them has led to the blockade of a DFO office and Nova Scotia boats being cut loose from wharfs.
The conference call, it has been reported, is aimed at easing tensions on the island.
UPDATE: It was being reported in the media later in the day that Shea agreed to put a temporary freeze on the sale of fishing licences for the waters off of Grand Manan while she further investigates concerns that have been raised.
Local fishermen in Grand Manan are upset that the federal government has allowed licence transfers or sales, which has allowed from some Nova Scotia vessels to fish in LFA 38. They say 10 licences within the fishing district have been sold or transferred to boats whose captains and crews do not reside in Grand Manan.
“By doing this, DFO is unable to maintain proper control and management of the lobster fishery,” the Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association Inc. stated in a media release that the association entitled: DFO chooses Nova Scotia corporate lobster interests over Grand Manan community.
The release states that fishermen are extremely upset over the January 2012 decision by DFO to allow the sale of lobster licences to interests residing and fishing outside of the Grand Manan fishing area.
“The loss of the licences to the community continues to be of grave concern and is already impacting the island economy and way of life,” states the release, in which the association says, “The Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association, the Grand Manan Village Council and citizens have all written to the Minister asking to maintain a residency clause as is done in other areas and fisheries.”
The association would like to see Shea put a stop to the situation permanently, or at the very least impose a freeze on licence tranfers.
“There are presently 10 LFA 38 licences being operated from Nova Scotia ports, which, in the opinion of LFA 38 licence holders, are 10 too many,” the release dated Nov. 12 stated.
There were reports of vessels being untied from the wharfs and left to set adrift, and reports of other damage to these vessels. The local DFO office on the island was also blockaded by vehicles and lobster traps and by many protesters. The driveway and entrances to the building were temporarily blocked on Wednesday,
There are only 136 lobster licences in LFA 38. There is concern by the fishery that allowing boats from outside the area to fish licences here takes away jobs from the locals and expenses and materials needed for fishing are bought outside of the area, causing less money to be circulated in the local economy.
Although others have said that some people residing from outside of the area that have these licences are still purchasing their supplies in the area, supporting the local economy.
Some of the licence holders from outside the jurisdiction that had gone to Grand Manan to fish for lobsters are from LFA 34 in southwestern Nova Scotia. DFO officials had to scramble earlier this week to find ports for them to tie up at back in Nova Scotia when they were driven away from Grand Manan.
The fishing season in Grand Manan was to have started on Nov. 12, but was delayed due to weather.