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Category B lobster licence holders still facing 50-year-old punishment

by ahnationtalk on November 4, 2021109 Views

HALIFAX, NS, Nov. 4, 2021 – Not many people can withstand the grueling conditions of lobster fishing. Even less can imagine continuing to lobster fish well into the age of 80. However, this is the reality for a group of aging fishers across the Maritimes, many of which have deteriorating health and continue to work against the risks. Their wish is to sell or transfer their licence and retire. However, a 50-year-old Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) policy prevents them from doing so.

In 1976 DFO created the “moonlighter policy” which was aimed at removing people from the fishery as a conservation method.  The result is that it has unfairly targeted fishers who held other jobs or professions almost 50 years ago. DFO deemed fishing was not their primary source of income and they became the “Class B” fishers.

The moonlighter policy operated by creating two categories:

  • Category A licences for those fully dependent on the fishery; and
  • Category B licences for those DFO deemed not fully dependent but with a historical attachment to the lobster fishery.

The fishers disagree that they are not dependent on the fishery and feel that the rule is arbitrary.

“Today I continue to fish to support my two sons who both have severe and chronic disabilities. If I could sell my licence, I could afford an accessibility home for them, but I am being punished for working other jobs to support my family.” – Donald Publicover of Brookside, N.S.

Since the implementation of the policy, Category B lobster licence holders have only been eligible to fish one-third of the trap limit of a Category A licence. Additionally, Category B licences were not made transferable, and expire upon death of the holder.

Today, for the approximately 80 Category B fishermen remaining, the burden of these limitations is still being felt.

“It hangs over my head, that when I am gone, I leave nothing to my son. It all goes to the grave with me – boat, traps, licence. This is not fair,” said Clayton Smith of Salmon Beach, N.B.

The Class B fishers are seeking policy changes for what is seen as outdated punishment. Many fishers are looking to pass their licence on to a family member, sell to an interested party, or take a buyout from DFO.

“There is a sense of urgency here, given the age of this group,” said Michel Samson of Cox and Palmer, the firm representing Category B licence holders. “As more licence holders pass on, the benefit of these licences is being lost with them.”

It is time to move forward with new policy that provides fair treatment to elderly fishers, and beneficial opportunities to multiple parties, including DFO.

The hardship felt by these aging fishers is immense. And yet a change in policy comes at no cost to the DFO. In fact, it provides the opportunity to repurpose the licences. With a catch capacity of roughly 75 traps per licence, Category B licences could be transferred to Indigenous or non-Indigenous fishers for the establishment of moderate livelihood fisheries, similar to the interim agreements established with four First Nations communities in Southwestern Nova Scotia earlier in October.

When these fishers pass the licence is permanently lost, and there is no longer time to delay. The federal government must act now to make a fair and just policy change for Category B licence holders.

For more information or to show your support, visit and send a letter to your MP.

More about Category B Licences

Category B fishing licences were introduced in 1976. They have a capacity of 75 traps per licence, roughly one-third the capacity of Category A licences, and cannot be transferred, leaving them to expire upon death. After nearly 50 years, these licence holders are fighting to have the policy changed to provide fair treatment to elderly fishers, and beneficial opportunities to multiple parties.

SOURCE Category B Lobster Licence Fishermen

For further information: Media Contact: Dawn Delaney, Iris Communications & Public Affairs, 403-519-5594


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