TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
It didn’t take long for lobster fishermen meeting in Yarmouth to question why a second lobster industry ballot sent out to lobster licence holders last fall still did not reflect the wording agreed to by port reps.
At a Feb. 26 meeting of the Lobster Fishing Area (LFA34) Advisory Committee – during a review of the minutes of the last meeting – port rep Vincent Goreham asked why the wording of last fall’s ballot differed from what port reps had agreed to at the LFA 34 Advisory Committee October meeting.
The ballot was conducted by the LFA 34 Advisory Committee to see if lobster licence holders wanted to proceed with changes to the lobster fishery for the 2013-14 commercial season that was set to begin at the end of November. The changes they were being asked to consider was a delay to the start of the season, a trap reduction and whether fishing should be allowed on Sundays. Licence holders could also vote in favour of the status quo.
“We were very surprised to receive the ballot,” Goreham said.
The surprise resulted from the fact that the trap reduction listed in the ballot was not what port reps had agreed to at an October advisory committee meeting. At that meeting the port reps had wanted to see a trap reduction of 340 traps (down from 375) included as an option for fishermen to vote on. They felt this trap reduction could have been sold to fishermen. But that’s not what the ballot said. It gave options of trap reductions of 325 with a week delay to the start of the season or 300 traps with no delay to the start of the season.
Goreham said when port reps agree to a ballot at a meeting, the wording should not be changed behind closed doors.
What made the change of wording even more frustrating to many port reps, even infuriating, was this was the second attempt at a ballot. An initial ballot had already been rejected by many licence holders before a ballot vote could be completed because it didn’t allow fishermen the option of voting against change. Port reps said the wording of that ballot didn’t reflect what they had agreed to. Because of this they felt blindsided.
The problem is when the second ballot came out, many felt blindsided again.
Port rep Maurice Shand the ballots did a disgrace and dishonour to the industry.
“I lost face with all my fishermen in my port,” he said, also questioning yet a second ballot going out didn’t reflect what port reps had agreed to, or what they had told fishermen to expect.
“It made my look like a fool,” he said. “It made my kind of disgusted and not even want to be here today.”
He said it also harmed trust and respect within the industry.
During the brief discussion Wednesday morning there wasn’t any answers provided on why the wording of the ballot had changed.
At the end of the day last fall, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea determined that there wouldn’t be any changes to the season since the results of the ballot vote weren’t conclusive enough. Although a slight majority of licence holders voted for change, Shea determined there wasn’t a clear enough mandate on which direction change should proceed so it was status quo for the season.
There did end up being a six-day delay to the start of the season, however, but that was because of the weather.