Police lay charge stemming from April protest at DFO headquarters; FISH-NL says authorities setting bad precedent

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 26th, 2017

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is shocked to learn a charge has been laid against an inshore harvester from La Scie involved in an April demonstration at the St. John’s headquarters of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

 

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“Inshore harvesters have been driven to the point of protest by direct threats to their livelihoods,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “They should not be charged, especially after police said they wouldn’t be.”

“But like the promise made by federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc that he would meet with hunger striker Richard Gillett, words these days appear to mean nothing.”

On April 7th, about 50 inshore shrimp fishermen — members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Independent Fish Harvesters’ Association — went inside the federal building on White Hills Road to protest severe cuts to this year’s quota. 

The protestors left after being given written assurances that their concerns would be taken into consideration. A window pane in one of the front doors was broken, but the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, who were on the scene at the time, said no charges would be laid. In fact, the Constabulary allowed DFO and protestors to speak.

On Wednesday, inshore fishermen Terry Ryan, a spokesman for the protesting fishermen, was contacted by the RCMP, on behalf of the RNC, and charged with one count of mischief to federal government property during the April 7th protest. It isn’t known whether more harvesters will be charged. 

“When authorities say charges won’t be laid — and then charges are laid — that sets a bad precedent for future protests because no one will believe them, and that’s just dangerous because there will be more protests,” says Cleary.

The quota for shrimp fishing area 6 off southern Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula has been set at 10,400 tonnes this year, less than quarter of the 2015 quota of 48,196 tonnes.

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