FISH-NL’s warnings of rising unrest play out, crab harvesters hold protest fishery off Port au Choix

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Monday, May 8th, 2017

Predictions by the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) of rising unrest in the province’s fishing industry are playing out as inshore fishermen launched a protest crab fishery this morning off Port au Choix on the Great Northern Peninsula.

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“Storm clouds have been brewing for months over the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, and DFO, the police, Ottawa and the provincial government were warned long ago,” said Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “This is going to get uglier before it gets better.”

As many as nine crab boats from the province took part in this morning’s protest fishery, although not all vessels set crab gear.

Local fishermen say as many as 40 boats from Quebec are permitted to fish in the crab-rich waters immediately off Port au Choix  (known as fishing Area 13), while most local harvesters have to steam 30 miles away to another zone (Area 12) where there's practically no crab. 

“Newfoundland and Labrador would never be allowed to fish in Quebec waters like the Quebec fishermen are doing off Newfoundland,” said Boyd Lavers, a Port Saunders-based fisherman who witnessed today’s protest fishery first-hand. Lavers also serves on FISH-NL’s executive as Captain of the Over 40-Foot Fleet.

The protest ended without incident this afternoon when the local fishermen retrieved their crab gear and returned to port. 

“Fishermen are at the breaking point and they’re not going to stand much more,” said Lavers. “The powers that be can’t be surprised that fishermen are retaliating.”

Lavers said local fishermen are demanding a meeting with DFO, and for the principle of adjacency be adhered to so NL fishermen benefit from the resources off their shores.

Another FISH-NL executive, Twillingate fishermen Richard Gillett (Vice-president of FISH-NL) carried out an 11-day hunger strike recently outside DFO’s NL headquarters in St. John’s to protest fisheries mismanagement. 

Gillett was promised a meeting with the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans within two weeks, but Sunday was the two-week mark and no meeting has been set. 

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