By Tina Comeau
There’s another ballot making the rounds for lobster licence holders to vote on in advance of the upcoming season, although once again the wording of the ballot differs from what was decided on at an LFA 34 Advisory Committee meeting.
The major changes fishermen are being asked to consider deal with the first month of the lobster fishery.
But these two options on this new ballot are virtually identical to the ones that were on a previous ballot that was rejected by many of the port reps on the advisory committee and many lobster licence holders. Port reps argued that original ballot didn’t reflect what they had agreed to. License holders resented the fact they weren’t given the option to vote 'no' to change.
The aim is for the results of the ballot to be announced late Friday afternoon, Oct. 25, after ballot boxes are collected and the votes are counted. Fishermen have until noon on Friday to turn the ballots in.
If the majority of the ballots cast (51 per cent or more) are in favour of a change, DFO would be asked to allow the change to be implemented for the 2013-14 season.
As mentioned, this is the second attempt at a ballot in advance of the season. A debate last week over the first ballot was both civilized and heated.
The main difference this time around is the first question licence holders are asked is: Do you want change to the fishing plan for the upcoming 2013/14 LFA 34 lobster season?
If they respond yes, they have two options to choose from for this year’s season:
• A start date of Dec. 2. A trap reduction to 325 for the period Dec. 2-Dec. 31, followed by 375 traps from Jan. 1-March 31, and followed by 400 traps from April 1-May 31.
• Or, a trap reduction to 300 for the period Nov. 25-Dec. 31, followed by 375 traps from Jan. 1-March 31 and followed by 400 traps from April 1-May 31.
But the only way these two options differ from the ones that were included on the first ballot – which was panned at an Oct. 16 LFA 34 Advisory Committee meeting – is the options include mention of the extra 25 traps in the spring from April 1-May 31 which fishermen always get.
There is no option that includes a trap reduction from 375 traps to 340 for the month of December, which is what many port reps said they had wanted – and expected to see – on the original ballot. It’s also what many of them decided, at the end of the Oct. 16 meeting, should be included on the new ballot.
Licence holders can also vote on whether one day of the week should be closed to fishing.
About the second ballot, one port rep told the Vanguard, “It’s exactly the same as what they turned down at that meeting. This is just going to make the ones that were mad at the meeting even more mad.”
Asked why the ballot differs from what the port reps decided on at the Oct. 16 meeting, committee co-chair Ashton Spinney claims that when the ballot was sent out to port reps for final approval prior to it being printed, about half a dozen reps requested it be changed. (The ballot was circulated for approval because not all of the port reps had stuck around to the end of the Oct. 16 meeting, and others weren't present for the meeting at all.) Other reps, Spinney said, didn’t respond back when the ballot was circulated for final approval. There are 17 reps in total.
Spinney acknowledges that some reps were “livid” when this second ballot came out, saying yet again they hadn’t been listened to. He says again not everyone responded prior to the ballot being printed.
Spinney is reminded by this newspaper, however, that at the conclusion of the Oct. 16 meeting the reps present were adamant that the 340 figure be one of the options included on the second ballot.
In the end, though, Spinney says people need to look at the bigger picture, that being the reason why change should be considered. He feels strongly that the industry needs to do something to control landings – both size wise and in their timing – at the start of the December, otherwise he predicts based on conversations that he’s had with dealers that another round of low prices at the start of the season awaits fishermen, particularly since without any change there will be one full week of fishing in November, allowing inventories for Christmas and New Year’s to be snatched up earlier with no need to increase the price.
Rather than mailing in this second ballot, locked ballot boxes have been placed in the DFO offices in Barrington, Tusket, Yarmouth, Meteghan and Digby. These offices are open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
The ballots have been out for a couple of days and with time running out before the season is slated to open, ballots have to be placed in the ballot boxes no later than noon on Friday, Oct. 25. To ensure that the votes are valid, and no one votes more than once, licence holders have to include their name or licence number on the bottom of the ballot.
If lobster licence holders did not receive their ballot in the mail, there will be ballots available at the polling stations between 11 a.m. and noon on Friday.
After the noon voting deadline on Friday, the locked ballot boxes will be collected and will be brought to the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Cornwallis, Digby County, where they will be counted by DFO staff. The results will be released following this.
Some people have asked why a second ballot has gone out, given that the first ballot was rejected. But it has been stated that while there are those opposed to any change, there are also those who feel change is needed. The ballot is supposed to give both sides a chance to have a yes or no say.