FISH-NL warns of rising unrest if Ottawa doesn’t soon act on fisheries crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—May 3rd, 2017

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) warns of rising unrest in the fishing industry if Ottawa doesn’t follow through on commitments to inshore fish harvesters.

“So far the Trudeau administration has paid lip service to unrest in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery,” said Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “That won’t cut it anymore because harvesters are at the end of their rope.”

The state of the fisheries today is described as worse than the early 1990s when groundfish stocks such as cod collapsed. Back then, harvesters moved on to other species such as shrimp and crab, but now most fisheries are at a critical level or on a downward spiral. Debt levels are also higher, and — given severe cuts to quotas for species like shrimp — many harvesters are teetering on bankrupcy. 

• Dozens of fishermen from northeastern Newfoundland and southern Labrador forced their way into the federal Fisheries headquarters in St. John’s in early April. Their demands included a new inshore shrimp-sharing arrangement for 2017 in light of severe quote cuts. 

The fishermen were told a decision would be handed down by April’s end. That deadline has come and gone, and now they’re being told the decision is out of the hands of DFO St. John’s and rests with the minister’s office in Ottawa, with no word on when to expect a decision.

• Twillingate fisherman Richard Gillett, who ended his 11-day hunger strike on April 23rd, was promised a meeting with federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc within two weeks. The two weeks are almost up, with still no word from the minister’s office on a meeting date.

• Fish harvesters on the Great Northern Peninsula burned crab and lobster pots outside a DFO office in Port au Choix in mid-April, saying they don’t have access to enough fish to make a living. 

While the harvesters later met with DFO officials, they’re still upset that Quebec fishermen can fish right off their shores and have demanded action by the federal government. Those fishermen are now planning a protest fishery.

On April 11, FISH-NL made a detailed presentation to the province’s federal Liberal caucus in Ottawa on how to deal with the current fisheries crisis. One of the recommendations is that DFO allow flexibility in this year harvesting rules, including allowing harvesters to buddy up.

The province’s Liberal caucus has yet to act on any of the recommendations. 

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Contact Ryan Cleary 682 4862