"On the Government's recent surf clam licence cancellation: Playing politics and soapboxes didn’t get these results. The 7MPs, especially Churence Rogers, who brought the voice of our Province to Ottawa, and who worked tirelessly, did. And this is what we will continue to do."
— MP Seamus O'Regan, the province's representative in the federal cabinet, in an Aug. 14th, 2018 tweet.
O'Regan's August tweet amounted to the only explanation as to why the Trudeau government had reversed its decision the month previous to expropriate 25% of the Arctic surf clam quota.
Then, in September, Canada’s federal ethics watchdog released a report that found Dominic LeBlanc had violated the conflict of interest act when, as federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, he approved a new Arctic surf clam licence to a company employing a family member.
If indeed Newfoundland and Labrador's MPs are working "tirelessly," they're going to have to dig much deeper and work harder to secure the future of the province's commercial fisheries. The desperate state of the province's dearest industry will be an election issue in 2019.
“When you learn the price of crab here has been set at $4.55 a pound on the same day that a crab fisherman in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia is paid $6 it’s very disheartening.”
— Jason Sullian, a Bay Bulls-based fisherman and a FISH-NL Captain (Under 40 feet), April 4th, 2018. FISH-NL later called for the snow crab price to be appealed, which it was, and the price per pound was increased to $4.90.
“We’re sick of the FFAW/Unifor working hand-in-hand with the government so that they can get more money and they’re doing nothing, and they’re doing absolutely nothing. They should all resign. Do the province and fish harvesters a favour, get out of it. They’re a shame, a disgrace to themselves and to their families.”
— Southern Harbour fisherman Peter Leonard, VOCM Open Line, April 9th.
“It is something in the wind that … let’s eliminate the Newfoundland fishermen because we don’t want to be dealing with them. The union (FFAW/Unifor) is not picking up on this. They’re letting this take place.”
— Avalon Liberal MP Ken McDonald, Feb. 5th, 2018, during a meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee of Fisheries and Oceans. The committee was conducting a study of Atlantic Canada commercial vessel length and licensing policies.
"It wasn't all about the Indigenous people, not in the least. It wasn't about reconciliation, not in the least ... this is bad ethics at its worse, this is terrible.”
— Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews , Sept. 13, 2018, in an interview with CBC NL.
Rex was responding to a report by Mario Dion, Canada’s Ethics Commissioner, that found then-federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc had broken conflict of interest rules in awarding an Arctic surf clam licence to a company linked to his wife's cousin.
Inshore harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador are highly concerned with the precedent that has been set in that if Ottawa can expropriate surf clams it could seize quotas of any other species like crab or shrimp.
Matthews demanded Trudeau dump LeBlanc from cabinet. Instead, Trudeau shuffled LeBlanc to intergovernmental affairs.
“How Keith Sullivan or Dave Decker can look the membership in the face is beyond me, but then how any labour leader in this province can stand by as the democratic rights of inshore harvesters are stripped from them is another mystery.”
— Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL, on June 5th, 2018 in reaction to the news that the FFAW-Unifor’s top two executives were acclaimed after thousands of members were blocked from running against them.
“Those scientific meetings should be broadcast live, so all inshore harvesters have a clear understanding of resource prospects and risks from the scientific perspective.”
— Richard Gillett, a Twillingate fisherman and Vice-President of FISH-NL, Feb. 9th, 2018.
FISH-NL condemned the move by DFO in 2018 to limit access to the release of the latest scientific information on the status of key commercial fish stocks. FISH-NL takes the stand that raw scientific data on the status of commercial stocks such as shrimp, crab, caplin and groundfish should be available for all hands to absorb.
“How the hell can we survive when it’s the middle of caplin season with no management plan and no quota? The minister of Fisheries and Oceans is either punishing us or he’s trying to bankrupt us.”
— Port Saunders fisherman Boyd Lavers (Captain of FISH-NL's Over 40 fleet), June 27th, 2018. More often than not, Fisheries and Oceans announces the management plan for a commercial species days before the fishery actually opens, which does not work for fishermen/women, who, like all small business owners, need to plan ahead. A management plan includes the quota amount, and opening/closing dates, etc.
There's also a line of thinking that DFO releases its management plans late to avoid protests.
"It’s time to manage the predators of our fish stocks rather than keep regulating our fish harvesters out of existence."
— Twillingate fisherman John Gillett, June 18, 2018, in a letter to the editor of the St. John's Telegram.
"There are new science vessels under construction now, but none of that can undo the loss of the data that hasn’t been collected.
— Russell Wangersky, The Telegram, April 2nd, 2018.
“To me it’s stupid. What am I doing? I’m a bad man, bringing outside money in when there’s nothing left for me to catch. Instead of going on EI, I take on a side job bringing money back home into the province for me and my family, and my own government is trying to stop me. It’s whacked.”
— Cox’s Cove fisherman Rick Crane, September 2018.
Well-known from his days as a Cold Water Cowboy on the hit Discovery Channel show, Rick has trucked fresh and salted cod to Quebec from Newfoundland more than once in recent years.
As Rick says, he has proven there’s a market off the island for high quality fish, and that fishermen like him — not just processors — can make money at it.
“When Gerry Byrne was in Opposition I would have moved to Corner Brook to vote for him … he was like a dog chasing a car, but now (as provincial Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture) he’s like the dog that caught up with the car and doesn’t know what to do with it.”
— Southern Harbour fisherman Peter Leonard on VOCM OpenLine with Paddy Daly, Dec. 6th, 2018.
"I suggest that the department (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) is at risk of being seen to be promoting aquaculture over the protection of wild fish.”
— Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, April 24th, 2018.
The federal watchdog released a report that said Ottawa isn’t doing enough to manage the risk of fish farms.
Here in Newfoundland, the Dwight Ball government announced in September, 2018 that it’s investing $30 million into Grieg NL’s massive aquaculture project on Newfoundland's south coast.
"What we need is for recreational salmon anglers and commercial cod and caplin fishers to stop the infighting and concentrate their anger at Ottawa. Canada’s East Coast fishery stocks need to be given the same level of importance as B.C.‘s fisheries or Alberta’s oil industry. We need more science and more protection of our East Coast fish stocks."
— Don Hutchens, president of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador in a Feb. 24th, 2018 letter to the editor of the St. John’s Telegram.
It's interesting to note that Hutchins' letter blamed changes in water temperature in 1989/90 for the collapse of commercial fish stocks such as caplin, cod and salmon.
In 2015, scientists say there was another temperature change in waters off Labrador that has also had a negative effect on caplin, cod and salmon. Growth in northern cod has stalled, for example, and Atlantic salmon numbers have been in steep decline.
The science is controversial in that while changes in water temperatures were believed to have had an impact on the health of fish stocks in the early 1990s, overfishing was generally blamed as the central culprit in steep declines.
“Our fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador is in shambles, and yet politicians and decision-makers are blind to the fish bones pilling up in the graveyard, and with it, our prime industry, economy and our communities.
— Fishery activist Gus Etchegary, 94, in a Jan. 20th, 2018 letter to the editor of The Telegram.
"Not all members support reaching out to FISH-NL. I certainly don’t . . I see FISH-NL constantly attacking the labour movement and its leaders and our allies. I do not believe we should meet with them or their leader Mr. Cleary or give them an opportunity to further undermine the Party and allies. Just adding my voice here in case the exec was going to take silence on the issue as a sign of support.”
— Kyle Rees, former Vice-President of the NL New Democrats, in an April 9th, 2018 online chat involving party members. Rees is also a St. John’s lawyer with the firm O’Dea Earle, which represents the FFAW/Unifor — a conflict of interest that Rees failed to mention in the group chat, and was called out on.
The conflict was brought to the attention of the province's law society, which ruled Rees’ actions did not constitute a conflict of interest because he was loyal to his client, the FFAW-Unifor.
"Through the grace of God and the help of the coast guard, that Edward Cornwallis, and the help of everybody else, we're all alive today."
— La Scie Fisherman Terry Ryan, owner of the Ocean Surfer II, whose five-man crew survived a harrowing journey after losing steering during a storm in early June, 2018. Terry was especially proud of his son, the skipper, for handling the situation so well under life-and-death stakes.
"I am sick of asking questions and getting no answers. Sick of being ignored and getting stuff shoved down my throat while they continue to try and push me from trying to make a living for my family and I. Hopefully FISH-NL will continue to bring the corruption that has been happening for years to light, and help give all harvesters a fair chance just not a select few.”
— Renews fisherman John Brazil, Oct. 19th, 2018. John wrote the comment after making a contribution to FISH-NL's Go Fund Me campaign.
“It’s pretty clear to anybody who’s, you know, paying attention, it’s not DFO that’s making these rules. They may be announcing them, but it’s pretty clear the FFAW is making the rules.”
— Anthony Cobb, President of Fogo Island Fish, Oct. 15th, 2018, in an interview with CBC's Fisheries Broadcast on this year's northern cod management plan, which was described as a circus.
"Now, they’ll get to choose the best days to go out on the water.”
— VOCM news story on inshore harvesters Dwayne and Phoebe Cox of Wreck Cove who won $1 million on a scratch ticket. The couple said the money meant they would no longer have to risk going out in poor weather to pay the bills.
“The union (FFAW-Unifor), they says they’re checking into it and whatever, but I mean you’d think they’d of known the details of this before it was all announced. I mean, this is not the first time a program been announced to help people, but the small-boat fishermen were left out, and I don’t understand why they would come out and say it’s a good news story for their membership. It’s a good news story for some of the membership, but not all.”
— Garnish fisherman Alfred Joseph Fitzpatrick, Thursday, Aug. 23rd, 2018 in an interview with CBC Radio's Fisheries Broadcast.
Alfred, a member of the FFAW’s inshore council (Monkstown to Garnish), was reacting to the fact the FFAW didn’t know whether fish harvesters qualified for a five-week EI extension. The FFAW had praised the extension as a “victory” for plant workers.
“It’s criminal for Newfoundland fisherman to be banned from fishing scallops in our own waters, while at the same time we can fish any other species in the same area … it’s terrible to think our own government is stopping us from fishing our own grounds when we as fisherman know there is resource enough here for all the local scallop boats to be successful. Instead, right now there are two offshore draggers from Nova Scotia fishing our prosperous grounds by themselves while we are tied on with no where to go.”
— Fisherman Paul Snook, July 3rd, 2018. Paul’s boat, My Maria, was one of six tied up in Fortune for weeks waiting to go fishing.
"With an experienced chef, using a large, sharp knife, thrust into the right place into the head of the lobster and then cutting down along the midway — that should kill the lobster very quickly and effectively — and is probably the most humane way in a small operation."
— Professor Robert Elwood, emeritus professor in ecology, evolution, behaviour and environmental economics at Queens University, Belfast on the decision by the Swiss government to ban the practice of throwing the crustaceans into boiling water while they are still conscious. Jan. 12, 2018.
"A lot of things are done behind closed doors because that union (FFAW/Unifor) doesn't want anybody else to know what's on the go. They decide what gets done and what doesn't."
— Avalon Liberal MP Ken McDonald, Feb. 5th, 2018, during a meeting of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. The committee was conducting a study of Atlantic Canada commercial vessel length and licensing policies.
"I just talked about the Upper Churchill contract and how bad that was. Well you know what, that wasn’t the worse deal this province ever made. The worse deal that this province ever did was 1949 when we turned around and handed over control of our fishing resources to the federal government, and they didn't’ even ask for it, and ever since then we’ve been paying the price."
—Tony Wakeham, provincial PC Leadership candidate, during a March 26th, 2018 leadership debate.