FISH-NL calls on DFO to halt FFAW fishery for northern cod, leave fish for harvesters

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, Sept. 13th, 2018

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on Fisheries and Oceans to immediately cancel this year’s northern cod quality project, and leave the fish for struggling inshore harvesters to catch.

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“Inshore harvesters are fit to be tied that while the northern cod stewardship fishery is temporarily closed to them, cod is still being landed through the FFAW-Unifor's cod quality fishery — which will reduce the overall amount of quota available to harvesters,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL.

“The cod quality projects are seen by most inshore harvesters as yet another FFAW money-making scheme,” he added. “When it comes to quality and inshore harvesters getting the most money for their fish, the No. 1 action that can be taken is to grade the fish at the wharf — not the plant.”

The northern cod stewardship fishery was closed Sept. 8th for at least two weeks. 

There’s still more than 3,000 tonnes of the 9,500-tonne northern cod quota left to be caught, but DFO committed to setting aside at least 25% for Sept. 30th onward. The northern cod fishery may reopen during the week of Sept. 23rd, but DFO has yet to make the call.

Meantime, despite the shut down of the commercial fishery, northern cod continues to be landed through the FFAW-Unifor’s cod quality projects, which are billed as an attempt to increase the qualify of fish landed.

Harvesters, however, say grading fish when it’s landed at the wharf — not when it arrives sometime down the road at the fish plant — will make an immediate impact on the price they’re paid for their product. 

According to DFO, the cod quality projects are continuing because they’re “regional,” meaning they involve cod fisheries around the province — not just northern cod. In the case of northern cod, under the quality project 55 FFAW-chosen harvesters are permitted to catch up to 6,000 pounds of cod a month for up to 12 months of the year. 

As of Sept. 6th, 155 tonnes of northern cod had been landed through the cod quality project, an amount that comes off the overall 9,500-tonne quota.

“Many small-boat harvesters on the northeast coast had trouble landing their crab this year, and will need every bit of northern cod to quality for top EI,” said Cleary. “The irony isn’t lost on the harvesters that while most of them sit on the wharf unable to make money from fishing cod, the union’s fishery hasn’t missed a beat.”

The cod quality project is run by the FFAW-Unifor’s Fisheries Science Stewardship and Sustainability Board (FSSSB), the same outfit that charges west coast Newfoundland harvesters $200 for halibut tags while harvesters from the Maritimes and Quebec don’t pay such fees. 

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