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Redfish fishing: the announced return of boats over 100 feet raises questions

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These big boats fished for redfish. Photo taken from the book “The Acadian Peninsula: its fisheries in images”.

  • René Landry (View profile)René Landry

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With the announced reopening of the redfish fishery after a 30-year moratorium, some members of the industry and former fishermen of this groundfish are wondering and fearing the return of large boats over 100 feet in the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced last Friday that the majority of the quota – 58.69% – allocated to fishermen this year would go to fishing boats. over 100 feet.

This choice raises eyebrows at the Acadian Regional Federation of Professional Fishermen (FRAPP). According to its general director, Jean Lanteigne, this goes against what has been recommended for several years: the protection of the seabed and biodiversity, in particular.

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The Lady Shippagan was used for redfish fishing for several years.

But, there, all of a sudden we're brushing that aside and we're going to allow big boats to return to the gulf?

A quote from Jean Lanteigne, general director of the Fédération régional acadienne des fishermen professionals

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It's a story that is far from being resolved , according to him. This will certainly be questioned by all non-governmental organizations and by the fleets, he predicts. It's going to be quite a challenge.

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If he made his mark as a crab fisherman, Rénald Guignard, from Lamèque, also fished for redfish for several years.< /p>

Rénald Guignard, from Lamèque, who fished redfish for several years, also asks himself questions.

In 1977, Roméo LeBlanc [then minister of Fisheries] closed the Gulf of St. Lawrence to boats over 100 feet, he recalls. That's what saved the fisheries in eastern Canada.

So he doesn't understand why we're reopening this fishing by getting these big boats back on the water.

André Bourgeois, a coastal fisherman from the Magdalen Islands, experienced the golden age of “goldfish” fishing in the Acadian Peninsula during the 1980s.

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In the 1980s, fishermen brought large quantities of redfish to the docks of the Acadian Peninsula.

He found himself in Caraquet in his early twenties, captain of a large legendary boat of more than 125 feet which has now disappeared, the Lady Shippagan. The crew fished for cod in the winter and redfish in the summer.

In the summer, we caught 6 or 7 million pounds of goldfish, he remembers. I'm not afraid to say it, we contributed quite a bit to destroying the resource.

Of course we had a moratorium in 1993 and it was painful. We must not hide it, we overfished goldfish because we were on big boats.

A quote from André Bourgeois, fisherman from the Magdalen Islands

Like many fishermen, he was surprised by the distribution of redfish allocations.

We shouldn't repeat what we did 30 years ago, he says. By leaving it to companies, I'm afraid it will do the same thing. I thought we were going to talk about ecological fishing, that we were going to be careful.

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