NL outfitting season a failure as US border closure kills business


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In an industry heavily dependent on Americans, some outfitters in Newfoundland and Labrador say their businesses face near total losses as the fall hunting season begins and the Canada-U.S. Border remains closed.

“They were 100% of our business,” said Eric Patey, who owns and operates Patey and Sons Outfitting in River of Ponds.

Patey said he typically brings in around 100 American hunters a year, totaling around $ 800,000 in income and employing a lot of people in his area of ​​the Northern Peninsula.

“Previously we had about 30 people employed at this time of year, our guides, our cooks and everything. Basically, we won’t have anyone working this fall,” he said.

The Canada-U.S. Border has been closed to non-essential traffic since mid-March. The federal government extended that shutdown date again on Friday, to October 21, the latest in a series of extensions in recent months as the pandemic continues to ravage the United States and accelerates again in parts of Canada.

The province’s big game hunting season kicked off on September 12, and although Patey has no one in the bush to catch a moose, he still has bills: helicopters and planes that need to be insured, and maintenance costs of cabins and other equipment.

Despite the financial pressures, Patey said he wholeheartedly supports closing the border.

“With what is happening in the United States today, like [much as] we would like to bring them here, nobody wants to bring this virus here. So I guess that’s what it is. We’re going to have to bite the bullet, “he said.

The province issued 709 moose and caribou licenses to non-residents in 2020, compared to 3,849 licenses in 2019 and 3,909 in 2018.

Submitted by Mark Pike

Some keep hope

The owner of an outfitter based in southwestern Newfoundland hopes the border will reopen before the end of the season.

“I’ve spoken to each of my clients and they all want to come, if the trip can be accomplished. They’re still firmly on the calendar, we just reschedule them if necessary,” said Mark Pike of Ironbound Outfitters.

Although he reserved a few Atlantic Canadians for hunts, Pike said if the border remained closed he would lose over $ 1 million in income, have no work for 25 employees and would not spend not tens of thousands of dollars to buy supplies from locals. stores. Other motels, restaurants and businesses will lose the money Americans spend when they visit the province before and after their hunts, he said.

“A lot of tourism money is going to be lost,” he said.

Pike also runs a business in Florida, where he is currently based, and said the ongoing border closure was “ridiculous.”

“The government really has to try to find a balance between personal security, but also economic stability,” he told CBC radio. Ready to go.

“The coronavirus is here. It’s not going to go away. I think in the interest of keeping people working and maintaining people’s livelihoods and jobs, etc., people are going to have to accept some sort of risk. . “

Public sentiment, however, may not be on Pike’s side.

For months, all positive COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador have been linked to travel, and Atlantic provinces have little appetite to burst the Atlantic bubble, which has since been in place. July 3. A poll this week also showed that 90% of Canadians support closing the US border.

Rob Gurdebeke / The Canadian Press

Rob Gurdebeke / The Canadian Press

More licenses for 2021?

Pike and Patey both agree on one point: government help is needed to help the struggling industry survive.

Pike said he wrote to the provincial government, and other outfitters have also done so, requesting that the unused 2020 licenses be reissued for 2021.

“I think that would be a major help for any outfitter,” said Pike.

“Whether we collect them this year or next year, it really doesn’t make much of a difference, but it would allow us to recoup some of our income that we lost this year.”

In a statement, the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture said unused 2020 licenses can be returned for a full refund.

Patey agreed that some help must come, as he worries about what the next hunting season might bring.

“God knows how long this will last with us. It might not be over next year, who knows? Only God alone, I guess, knows that.

The 2020 big game hunting season ends on December 31, except in national parks.

Read more about CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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