The following are the top 25 quotes from the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery for 2017, as assembled by FISH-NL.
“I got to stress to the fishermen, and the women, the people, Paddy: Get up and speak, if you don’t you’re going to be left behind. One more thing Paddy — I told Fisheries yesterday, I told them the way I feel. I spoke to you in May month, when we had that demonstration down to the union (FFAW/Unifor) office, I untied the rope (from the union’s main doors), but … I will tie it on again Paddy, and I told DFO yesterday: We are coming back to St. John’s. Don’t know when, (but) we are coming back, and we will tie on the door.”
— Fogo Island fisherman Rod Rowe, in an Oct. 28th conversation with VOCM Open Line's Paddy Daly. Rod was vicious with the FFAW-Unifor for its role in developing a cod master plan with little input from inshore harvesters.
“I hope senior management at DFO go home this evening and take a good long look at themselves in the mirror, and then make sure to give their hands a good scrub because there’s blood on them.”
— Bay Bulls fisherman Jason Sullivan, Captain of FISH-NL’s under 40-foot fleet, on Nov. 27th in reaction to a report by the federal Transportation Safety Board into the death of four fishermen from Shea Heights off Cape Spear in September 2016.
The report confirmed DFO policy may have contributed to the deaths. In late December, DFO acknowledged that weekly limits in the cod fishery may be putting the lives of inshore harvesters at risk.
"We share the concern that rules that we may be developing, although in consultation with harvesters, are potentially contributing to risky situations and putting lives at risk,” said Jacqueline Perry, DFO's regional director of fisheries management,
Only harvesters weren't consulted on weekly limits. That policy came directly from the FFAW/Unifor and the Groundfish Industry Development Council, made up of the union and 11 processing companies.
The blood is on more hands than just DFO's …
“The Terms of Union must be revisited so that the principles of adjacency and historical attachment are made constitutional corner stones. No one minister or government should have such absolute control over Newfoundland and Labrador’s fishery fortunes.”
— Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL, in an Oct. 3rd letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The letter — which also called for a formal apology to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for Ottawa’s epic fisheries mismanagement — was cced to the province’s seven MPs and all 40 MHAs.
To date, the only response has been from provincial Fisheries and Lands Minister Gerry Byrne, who wrote on Dec. 18th that the principle of adjacency should be recognized in the federal Fisheries Act, which is under review.
Said Byrne: “I agree that a renewed approach to fisheries management is needed.”
”Not all the time do courts understand how democratic decisions happen."
— Lana Payne, Unifor's Atlantic Director, in a July 13th call to VOCM's Open Line with Paddy Daly. Payne was reacting to a Supreme Court of NL, Court of Appeal decision in June that found the FFAW/Unifor executive had deceived scallop harvesters in the Strait of Belle Isle.
Gerry Diaz, the President of Unifor (Canada’s largest private sector union) and the country’s biggest hypocrite, said in May he's about "workplace democracy" and allowing workers to choose their own union, as was the case with thousands of workers with the Toronto Transit Authority.
In this province, Dias and FFAW-Unifor are holding thousands of inshore harvesters hostage, blocking a vote at the Labour Relations Board.
One year and one day after FISH-NL filed its application for certification with the Labour Board to represent the province’s inshore harvesters, and there’s been barely any movement.
In fact, FISH-NL has learned that the list of names of inshore harvesters that the Labour Relations Board finally released in October was actually handed to the Board six months earlier.
More on that early in 2018 …
“It breaks my heart to see these towns, fishing villages, all dying. Our Newfoundland should be one of the richest provinces in Canada.”
— Twillingate Captain Richard Gillett during his 11-day hunger strike last April on the grounds near the entrance to DFO’s NL headquarters in east end St. John’s. The protest ended with Richard, a diabetic with a heart condition, carted off in an ambulance. One of his key demands was a meeting with federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who agreed to meet but never followed through.
DFO has begun excavating the grounds where Gillett set up his Labrador tent after a security review was conducted as a result of 2017 protests.
“There is no such thing as Newfoundland fishing grounds, only Canadian fishing grounds.’
— A senior DFO official in NL during a series of November meetings for inshore harvesters living on Newfoundland’s south coast. Harvesters had been questioning why, for example, Nova Scotia-based Clearwater controls two of three scallop beds on the St. Pierre Bank off Newfoundland in fishing zone 3Ps.
Try telling La Belle Province there’s no Quebec fishing grounds ...
Unfortunately, the senior bureaucrat most definitely has a point — given the Trudeau government has pledged first dibs to redfish in the Gulf to the Qalipu First Nation, and Ottawa is expropriating 25% of the Arctic surf clam quota to give to an indigenous group in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.
Indeed, Ottawa is compensating Indigenous peoples on the backs of Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters.
The best political quote of 2017 goes to MP Gudie Hutchings, Liberal MP for Long Range Mountains, during an April meeting with FISH-NL in Ottawa: “Politics means to Ottawa what the fishery means to Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Notice she didn’t say “what the CANADIAN fishery means to Newfoundland and Labrador.”
"You all watched Richard Gillett starve himself. What did Ottawa do? What did our union do? What did our provincial government do? Absolutely nothing. They were willing to let him die. We're not going to sit down and die either."
— Fogo Island fisherman Rod Rowe, interviewed on April 24th outside the FFAW/Unifor headquarters in St. John’s after the 11-day hunger strike ended. Fishermen had tied a rope to the union building’s main doors, intent on tying the other end to a pick up and pulling the doors off. Rowe untied the rope, wanting to keep the protest peaceful.
“He was a fisherman the same as any other fisherman, and his memory should be treated with dignity and respect. No family should have to go through this.”
— The family of the late Calvin (Bud) Tobin, 25, a fisherman from Southern Harbour who died in an Aug. 1st car accident. The family was initially told by the FFAW/Unifor that they didn’t qualify for more than $30,000 in death benefits because his union card had expired the day before he died. The family objected, the media/FISH-NL got involved, and the family qualified for the entire amount.
President Keith Sullivan initially said denying Calvin Tobin's death benefit was a decision made by the union's insurance providers, but that wasn’t the case.
"We did communicate the wrong information to the family and we've been heartbroken by that,” said Robert Keenan, FFAW/Unifor project manager.
The union never did apology to the family.
"Can't tell you numbers, can't tell you price, can't even tell you I'm selling it.”
— Cox’s Cove fisherman Rick Crane, who was in Quebec in mid October (the second time in 2017) with a truckload of Newfoundland cod.
What sells in NL for an average price of 60 cents a pound can sell off the truck in Quebec (within a couple of hours) for $6 or $7 or $8 or who-knows-what a pound.
Crane and thousands of harvesters like him support lifting all restrictions and allowing out-of-province fish buyers into the provincial marketplace for all species.
An open and free market in the fishing industry would, at best, result in increased competition and more money in the pockets of NL fish harvesters. At worst, it would keep local buyers honest.
The province/FFAW/Unifor are against outside buyers.
”You're f--ing nuts is what you are.”
— West coast Newfoundland processor Bill Barry to DFO officials during an Aug. 24 conference call to discuss mackerel. The mackerel quota for 2017 was set at 10,000 tonnes, but it was feared most of the quota would be caught in the Maritimes/Quebec before the fish migrated off NL for our harvesters to catch (which turned out to be the case).
Port Saunders fisherman Boyd Lavers vowed to fish mackerel even if the quota was taken: “It’s just as well for the government to take my boat as the bank to take it.”
Boyd suffered a 63 per cent to his shrimp quota earlier in the year.
“I should be making money, not going in the hole because the union thinks it’s OK to rob the eyes out of ya.”
— Placentia fisherman Leonard Mulrooney, who at the age of 63 and after fishing for 45 years, had enough on Oct. 5th and went public with the fact he couldn’t get a fair price for his fish.
Leonard set his gill nets one evening, and the next morning hauled in 1,298 pounds of cod, the “biggest kind of fish.” The throats were cut before the fish hit the deck, and then put in slush. “Perfect fish,” Leonard called it.
Only when his fish was graded at the Arnold’s Cove plant, the results shocked him: 50 per cent Grade A (83 cents a pound); 40 per cent Grade B (40 cents a pound); and 10 per cent Grade C (20 cents a pound). The average price of Leonard’s fish was 60 cents a pound.
Leonard had three points: 1) the province should allow in outside buyers; 2) grading should be done at the wharf (not the plant); and 3) “the FFAW got to go.”
The FFAW/Unifor is paid 1 cent for every pound of cod purchased by processors — money for union graders to “independently” check the sampling/grading process at the plant. In 2017, an estimated 30,000 tonnes of cod are expected to be landed in the province, bringing in $660,000 to the union.
“Great meeting with my friend Keith Sullivan Thursday!
Jeudi, j’ai eu une bonne réunion avec mon ami Keith Sullivan!”
— Oct. 21st tweet by federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc following a meeting in Ottawa with the President of the FFAW/Unifor. A short while later LeBlanc announced the highly controversial decision late on the Friday of the Remembrance Day weekend to allow offshore draggers to fish cod in fishing zone 3Ps off the province’s south coast, a stock in near critical condition.
LeBlanc apparently didn't mention that news to his "friend" ...
“Any failure by your firm to remit dues as required will be met with legal action.”
— A May 10th letter from an FFAW/Unifor lawyer to fish processing companies, which automatically deduct union dues before they pay inshore harvesters for their catches. The dues are then transferred to the union, which threatened legal action after thousands of harvesters tried to stop dues from being deducted from their pay.
The province's Labour Relations Board refused to answer the question whether it’s mandatory for harvesters to pay union dues.
At the same time, inshore fisherman Sam Lambert of Southport, Trinity Bay, hasn't paid union dues to the FFAW in 13 years. Every year Lambert presents a letter to the processor who buys his fish, revoking assignment of his union dues and directing that no further funds be withheld from his pay and forwarded to the FFAW.
"Listening and reading the comments from the fishermen from Goose Cove, Grand Bank, Twillingate and many other N&L communities it confirms, beyond doubt, the once huge fishery we transferred for management to Ottawa is now a cesspool of corruption and federal mismanagement.”
— Gus Etchegary, 93, an outspoken fisheries advocate, and retired fishing industry executive. He posted the comment May 11th on social media.
For years Etchegary has lobbied for an inquiry into the fall of the once great fisheries. He attempted to get Memorial University’s Harris Institute to carry out an in-depth study, but met with little success. Said Etchegary, “Officials at DFO, DFA, FFAW, representatives from the industry and other powerful fishery participants informed the Institute that they would NOT participate in such an independent, in-depth Inquiry.”
“DFO is not of the view that immediate action is necessary with respect to local seismic surveys … “
— The July, 2017 response of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board to a request by FISH-NL for seismic work in waters off the province to be immediately suspended.
A study published in July in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution concluded that intense acoustic signals used in oil and gas exploration cause significant damage to zooplankton populations that are critical elements of the marine food chain.
The findings are concerning, because zooplankton — which include worms, crustaceans like krill, and many other tiny animals that drift near the ocean surface — provide sustenance for species higher in the food chain. Healthy populations of fish, for example, aren’t possible without them.
Given that most commercial stocks such as shrimp and cod are at or near critical levels, FISH-NL wrote the C-NLOPB to request that the board proceed with extreme caution and immediately suspend seismic work until the activity can be reevaluated.
FISH-NL also expressed concern to the C-NLOPB over the FFAW/Unifor 's “cozy” relationship with offshore oil companies. Questions have been raised about the amount of money the oil industry contributes to the FFAW-Unifor, which the union won’t reveal.
Scott Tessier, Chair and CEO of the C-NLOPB, wrote that he had “taken note” of the concern.
“The seismic sound blasts made by airguns searching for new oil reserves under the ocean floor can kill large swathes of plankton, the basis of the marine food chain, leaving the ocean dotted with plankton holes.”
— New Scientist, June 2017.
The amount of seismic work off NL this year has been described as “super-sized.” According to the CBC, no fewer than 18 companies that specialize in seismic surveying filed environmental assessments this year with the board that regulates the offshore.
"The absence of a rebuilding plan means that, currently, there continue to be no management goals, no target for rebuilding and no target rebuilding rate.”
— Report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, March 2017. The report called for an immediate “rebuilding plan” for northern cod, and chastised DFO for failing to produce a rebuilding strategy — almost 25 years after the moratorium.
To date, there's still no strategy — even as massive declines in shrimp and crab quotas are resulting in huge fishing pressure shifting back to cod.
Almost 12,300 tonnes of northern cod have been caught this year in the small-scale stewardship fishery, plus another estimated 2,500 tonnes in the food fishery (there is no official count).
According to the latest northern cod stock assessment, “The northern cod stock has increased considerably over the past decade, but remains within the critical zone."
Iceland cod quota for the 2017/2018 fishing season has been set at 255,172 tonnes. Norway and Russia have a shared cod quota of 775,000 tonnes in the Barents Sea.
“There are no young people coming up, not in our area — it’s too hard to get in. I’ve got a 72-year-old fishing with me. I can’t find anybody else.”
— An inshore fisherman from Newfoundland’s west coast during a Nov. 9th DFO meeting in Stephenville.
That particular harvester is also a member of the Qualipu First Nation, and had this to say about Ottawa’s decision to give the group a future redfish quota in the Gulf of St. Lawrence: “Why is government giving quota to indigenous groups when i can’t pass on my licence to my son?”
Entry into the NL fishery is controlled by the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board, which is controlled by the FFAW/Unifor.
“My grandfather was forced to dump fish and we’re still here doing the same.”
— Captain Wayne-Janice Meade of Grand Bank, March 2017.
Wayne's groundfish licence conditions this year were eight pages long and practically regulated him to death. As Wayne said, he’s not licensed to fish, he’s licensed to dump fish. The 33,000 pounds of cod he caught last March off the south coast wasn’t worth that much more than the 1,500 pounds of halibut he was forced to dump. The cod sold for 65 cents a pound, compared to as much as $12.85 a pound for halibut. Meade and other harvesters were allowed a 10 per cent by catch of halibut until a few years ago, when the bycatch limit was reduced to 3 per cent.
Countries like Iceland do not allow the discarding of fish.
“The FFAW/Unifor, including their local here in Grand Bank, they’ve lost their voice. They’ve lost their way, and instead of advocating for fish harvesters and seafood production workers they’re more interested in being an arm of the federal government."
— Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews, Oct. 31st, NTV News.
Matthews said it's unprecedented for the federal government to “expropriate” a province’s natural resource (in this case 25 per cent of the quota of Arctic surf clams, which are processed at the Grand Bank plant), and hand it to an Indigenous group in the name of reconciliation.
The new licence, which is due to be issued in 2018, must go to a holder who is majority Canadian-owned and must be an Indigenous entity based in Atlantic Canada or Quebec.
"For boats — even the uglier ones — are among the loveliest creations of man's hands. As the relationship between man and his boat becomes almost as personal and intimate as that of lovers."
— Quote on the wall of a hotel in St. Barbe.
“Attached is a press release from the FFAW issued yesterday calling for the offshore trawlers to be removed from the cod fishery in 3Ps starting with the 2017/18 season — this is another example of the FFAW turning its back on the membership of Arnold’s Cove.”
— The quote was taken from a notice posted in early January inside the Arnold’s Cove plant, and is the clearest example of the FFAW/Unifor's inherent conflict of interest in representing plant workers, offshore trawler men and inshore harvesters.
In fact, the FFAW negotiated the 2017 price of cod in May with Icewater Seafoods, owner of the Arnold’s Cove operation whose unionized workers the union also represents.
In November, late on a Friday afternoon of the long Remembrance Day weekend, Ottawa announced the offshore sector would be permitted to catch its offshore allocation of the battered south coast cod stock. Only a few days earlier federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc tweeted a picture with his "friend" — union president Keith Sullivan — and there was no mention of it.
“The fishery can go to hell. It doesn’t matter, it’s him I’m concerned about.”
— Joyce Gillett of her husband, Richard Gillett, in the early days of his 11-day hunger strike in early April at the entrance to DFO’s White Hills headquarters in St. John’s.
Joyce rarely left her husband’s side, with the two bunkered down in an old Labrador tent that was donated by a very good samaritan.
At one point, a representative of the St. John’s Fire Department inspected the tent, determined it wasn’t “certified” because of the homemade wood stove, and ordered it shut down. Richard eventually left the tent on a stretcher.
“The observer told me that out on the foreign trawlers they can keep whatever they come up on. No matter what it is, it all comes aboard.”
— La Scie fisherman Keith Bath, who was forced to dump an estimated $70,000 worth of halibut (just over 600 fish) over a five-day trip this summer while fishing hake on the St. Pierre Bank because there's zero per cent bycatch for NL inshore harvesters. (Aug. 28th Fisheries Broadcast)
DFO later confirmed that foreign trawlers operating outside the 200-mile limit can keep whatever halibut they encounter as a bycatch while directing for other groundfish species.
One set of rules for NLers, another set for foreign trawlers.
DFO also later confirmed that the offshore draggers that were permitted back at what’s left of the 3Ps cod stock this fall/winter have a 10 per cent halibut bycatch.
“I’ve got no money for a lawyer, haven’t even made enough to get my unemployment. They can come sue, but over my dead body they’ll get my youngsters’ house.”
— Port Saunders fisherman Conway Caines in the Oct. 17th edition of the Northern Pen on being sued by his own union, FFAW/Unifor, for comments he made in September on VOCM Open Line with Paddy Daly. Conway hasn't been on Open Line since.
He did attend DFO meetings in November in Hawke's Bay and Cow Head on the Great Northern Peninsula, where Conway wasn't the least bit shy in expressing himself.