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Shawn Hayward
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Fisheries changes coming in April

When Leonard Keough was born computers filled entire rooms and could do only very basic functions. Today you can use something that fits in your hand to pay your bills, order dinner, or talk to friends in another country.

It’s hard to go through a day without using at least one computer, whether it’s a laptop, desktop, or smart phone, but some have managed to avoid them. Leonard Keough is a 71-year-old fisherman from Plate Cove West, and he’s never owned one.

His son, Jamie Keough, says it will be hard for his father and others his age to adapt to new rules coming from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Starting in April fishermen will have to buy their licenses online, as counter service closes in offices across the country, including at the Clarenville office, the closest one to Plate Cove West. Fishermen will have to print them off and keep track of new fishing conditions as they’re released. Right now DFO sends them in the mail.

The younger Keough says most people preferred the old system because it ensured fishermen were carrying the correct documents onboard when they went to sea.

“You knew whatever DFO printed off, that it was right,” he says. “For people who don’t use computers, it’s going to be more of a headache for them.”

Government created the change to save money and make the system more efficient, according to Annette Rumbolt, the acting director of integrated business management systems with DFO.

“Fishermen will no longer have to drive to the DFO offices,” she told The Packet. “They will be able to do it from the comfort of their home. They’ve been known to have lineups. I’m sure there’s benefits to people just looking to renew licenses.”

“A lot of people have moved to doing things online so the Government of Canada is just attempting to move in that direction as well.”

DFO won’t reduce the number of staff at its Clarenville office, according to a DFO spokesperson, or change their hours.

Calvin Furlong of Stock Cove says it will be hard for fishermen to keep up on condition changes in the peak of the season. He fishes crab, capelin, herring, lobster, and cod, and says new conditions come for each license throughout the season. If he’s caught on the water with and out-of-date license, he’s breaking the law.

“Who has the time to go in, look it up to see if it’s changed or not?” he asks. “Right now, fishermen are paying enough for their licenses, where they should be able to pick it up at a DFO office where it’s done for them, where they can get it printed in person and know they have everything they need when they go out on the water.”

There is no high-speed Internet available where Furlong lives, like many communities in the Bonavista area. He has a dish that gets Internet but he says that can be as slow as dial-up. Furlong has a printer but it only takes short paper. The nearest adequate printer would be in Plate Cove West.

Overall, Furlong says it’s going to be difficult for fishermen to adjust to the new rules.

Keough says that some people might find it more convenient to get their licenses online, instead of having to drive to Clarenville, but older people will have trouble. He expects his father will have to rely on him to help pay for licenses and keep track of new conditions.

“He’ll have to come up me and print it off,” he says. “It’s extra cost of paper and whatnot. It could be easier, but it could be more headaches. There are pros and cons to it.”

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, The Packet

Geographic location: Plate Cove West, Clarenville, Canada Bonavista

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