02/05/2013 02:40 EST | Updated 04/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Atlantic fishermen try to create united position against owner-operator changes

HALIFAX - Dozens of fishermen are meeting in Halifax on Wednesday for a forum aimed at unifying them and preserving protections for the owner-operator fleet in Atlantic Canada.

Christian Brun of the Maritime Fishermen's Union says he hopes the Atlantic fishermen's policy forum will help create a united front against any changes to owner-operator policies that govern independent fishermen.

Brun said the idea came after there were fears last year that the federal government was going to dismantle fleet separation and owner-operator policies.

Fishermen say the policies are key to maintaining small fishing enterprises, with fleet separation meaning that only those who fish can own a fishing licence while only the owner of the licence must operate the boat under the owner-operator policy.

Brun says this new forum will bring together 100 delegates representing about 10,000 individual fishing operations throughout the Atlantic region and Quebec.

He says they will also look at how they can develop new fisheries with different species, expand their markets, rationalize the industry and encourage young people to get involved since the average age of a harvester is around 57 years old.

A spokesman for the federal Fisheries Department said in an email that the federal government has no plans to change fleet separation and owner operator policies in Atlantic Canada.