FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sept. 14th, 2018
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans to take direct control of a scientific quota of redfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
“The FFAW-Unifor should not be controlling science quotas,” says Boyd Lavers, an inshore harvester from Port Saunders on the Great Northern Peninsula, and Captain of FISH-NL’s over 40-foot fleet.
“The only fair way to deal with this experimental quota is for it to be handled directly by DFO, so the FFAW doesn’t get a chance to show favouritism as to who fishes the quota, or to take a cut from the sale of the fish.”
Earlier this year, DFO set aside a 2,500-tonne experimental redfish quota in the Gulf for the purpose of testing fishing gear to minimize the capture of undersized fish, as well as to collect other scientific data.
According to a DFO spokesman in St. John’s, an online application process — which closed on Aug. 6th — was open to all groundfish licence holders in the Gulf, as well as to Gulf-based Indigenous groups with a groundfish licence.
The DFO spokesman said a number of applications were received from this province, but, as of today (Sept. 14th), no decision has been made on the allocation of the experimental quota.
At the same time, inshore harvesters on the Great Northern Peninsula have been told by the FFAW-Unifor that the union has been granted an allocation of the experimental quota.
Further, harvesters have been told by the union they will have to sell the redfish to a plant of the FFAW’s choosing, and pay the union half the money from the sale of the fish.
“That is absolutely unfair, ridiculous, and should never be allowed to happen,” Lavers said.
Ottawa can assign science quotas of fish under the so-called Use of Fish policy, a section of the federal Fisheries Act that gives the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the power to allocate fish for the purposes of financing scientific or fisheries management activities.
In the NL region, the Use of Fish policy applies to snow crab, redfish, and shrimp.
The FFAW-Unifor has had a contract for the cod sentinel or test fishery in the Gulf since 1994, and some of equipment used in the sentinel fishery will apparently be modified to catch redfish.
FISH-NL has written the federal Auditor General of Canada to request an investigation into the DFO's management of the sentinel cod fisheries in waters around the province.
While DFO pays for the sentinel fisheries program directly out of its budget — and not through Use of Fish — the FFAW has been allowed to keep all funds from the sale of the cod.