When it comes to making a go of it in the tourism business, timing and planning are crucial factors.
That’s why Darren Park finds it so frustrating that no announcement has been made yet regarding dates for the 2018 recreational cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.
By comparison, the dates for the 2017 season were announced May 19, 2017.
The recreational groundfish season dates for the rest of Atlantic Canada were announced in April. The season will be open daily from July 7 to Aug. 12 in New Brunswick and from July 30 to Sept. 3 in both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Seafood producers have actually been calling for more restrictions on the recreational fishery because of concerns about declining stocks and the lack of statistics indicating how many cod are being caught during the recreational fishery.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated this season’s dates for Newfoundland and Labrador would be announced in early June, but the dates have not yet been confirmed.
Taking folks out on the Bay of Islands to fish for cod and even cook it up for them is a big component of Park’s operation, Four Seasons Tours based in Cox’s Cove.
He’s been trying to find out this season’s details from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and from the office of Gudie Hutchings, the Liberal Commons member for Long Range Mountains, but has not had any luck.
Park, who said he gets bookings in November and December from people hoping to catch and eat a fresh cod the following summer, has had some of those bookings cancel in light of the uncertainty about the 2018 season’s dates.
Last year, the season opened for the first two weekends of July before opening for three consecutive weeks and then reverting back to weekends for the final four weeks until early September.
Park said, considering the relatively limited opportunities, especially if bad weather becomes a factor, every single booking is crucial for the viability of his small business.
“It’s heartbreaking to have to wait this late to know anything,” Park said. “You work so hard to get a tour and then, all of a sudden, you have to tell them the cod fishing season isn’t open and we don’t know if we’re having a season.”
One positive thing is that Park can still book tours for sightseeing and fishing for things like mackerel or sea trout, since he doesn’t use the jiggers permitted for cod fishing only.
But it’s the cod that people associate with the province and they don’t want to just catch it and have to throw it back to the sea. Park said they want to experience going ashore to clean, fillet and pan-fry their catch for a tasty meal.
“I push my tour as a traditional Newfoundland tour in a dory and what else is a bigger part of Newfoundland and our culture than cod,” he asked. “That’s Newfoundland and it’s a whole different experience altogether.”
Park has journalists and foreign tour operators, some being brought in by government, scheduled to come to experience what he offers. He said he can’t even get permission to retain one cod, outside of any prescribed season dates, to show these sorts of guests a traditional Newfoundland and Labrador adventure.
He feels there’s no reason why the recreational cod fishery dates cannot be determined well in advance so the lucrative tourism industry, along with all of the economic spinoffs, can make the most of every opportunity available.
“It’s not only me,” said Park in reference to those spinoffs. “Government has to realize what tourism creates.”