FISH-NL says time for Ottawa to stop stringing along harvesters impacted by severe ice conditions

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on the Government of Canada to stop stringing along the province’s inshore harvesters and start making decisions regarding help for those impacted this year by severe ice conditions.

“This delay by the Government of Canada is a form of mental torture,” says Ryan Cleary, President of FISH-NL. “Harvesters are continually told a decision will come soon, a decision will come tomorrow, but tomorrow never comes. Meantime, harvesters, their families, and rural communities are suffering.”

Fisheries for species like snow crab would normally have started up in early April, but ice conditions off Newfoundland this year have been the worst in years, preventing some harvesters from leaving port as Employment Insurance benefits run out.

The provincial government first asked Ottawa on April 21st — almost 7 weeks ago — for compensation (in the form of extended EI) for fishery workers impacted by ice conditions this spring, but the federal government has yet to make a decision.

Ice conditions in some areas of the northeast coast have been so severe that some harvesters have been unable to leave port at all this year. Those harvesters fear the crab fishery will be shut down soon because of soft shell, and have asked the federal government to allow them to temporarily lease other fishing boats that aren’t penned in by ice to catch their quotas.

While harvesters in provinces like Nova Scotia can temporarily lease a fishing vessel for 30 days, the minimum lease in Newfoundland and Labrador is one year.

“If harvesters can’t catch their crab before the fishery closes they will face financial ruin,” says Cleary.

In one particular case, Dion Rideout of Virgin Arm recently purchased a fishing licence and boat, but because the vessel has been locked in by ice, he hasn’t been able to get it checked out by the local marine centre.

Rideout wants the ability to temporarily lease his father’s fishing boat to catch his crab quota, but DFO officials in St. John’s have delayed making a decision.

“Every day of delay is a day closer to the crab fishery being closed,” says Cleary. “Harvesters at lease deserve an answer to their questions. The least DFO could do is show harvesters a little respect.”

Contact Ryan Cleary: 682 4862