FISH-NL renews call for province to allow outside buyers; ensure provincially owned quotas caught by inshore harvesters


Friday, Jan. 14th, 2017

In light of declining south coast cod stocks, the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is renewing its call that the provincial government lift all restrictions and allow out-of-province buyers into the provincial marketplace for all species.

FISH-NL also calls on the province to ensure the provincially owned 150-tonne halibut quota is caught by the inshore harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Fish harvesters cannot survive on 60 cents a pound for cod, which is what they made last year and what they made 30 years before that,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “It’s time to blow open the doors to the provincial marketplace and allow in outside buyers.”

“Further, all quotas owned by the Newfoundland and Labrador government must be caught by our inshore fishermen — not offshore, factory-freezer trawlers.”

Cleary wrote provincial Fisheries Minister Steve Crocker on Dec. 23rd to officially request that outside buyers be allowed into the provincial marketplace, a move expected to generate immediate competition and increase the price paid to harvesters.

Harvesters in fishing zone 3Ps have had a particularly hard go of it as of late with the decline of species such as crab and shrimp and the growing reliance on groundfish. DFO science is now recommending a cut in the 3Ps cod quota, which was set at 13,000 tonnes last year, although only 7,000 tonnes were caught.

“For harvesters to survive it’s critical that they be paid the highest possible price for their catch,” said Cleary. “That can only happen if the door is open to outside buyers.”

FISH-NL’s proposal to allow in outside buyers was made following an intensive, province-wide consultation with thousands of fish harvesters, whose support for the idea was practically unanimous. FISH-NL is attempting to break harvesters away from the FFAW into their own separate union, and the consultation was part of the certification drive.

The FFAW has failed to raise the issue of outside buyers because of their obvious conflict of interest in representing both harvesters and plant workers under the one umbrella.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government also owns a 150 tonne halibut quota in waters off the south and west coast of Newfoundland. The quota is part of a suite of quotas the province leases annually to Icewater Seafoods Inc. of Arnold’s Cove to help fund its operations.

As recently as 2014 Icewater had been subleasing the quota to an unnamed harvesting company outside the province, but the provincial government confirmed in recent weeks the bulk of the quota (80 per cent) is now being caught by Ocean Choice International, one of the largest seafood quota holders in Canada.

“The inshore harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador should have first access to all quotas owned by our provincial government. That should be a given,” said Cleary. “Our harvesters must be put first — not just in words, but in action.”

For more information, contact Ron Woodman 697-6026 or Ryan Cleary 682-4862