ASP snubs hearings

Terry Roberts
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MP says association should get 'serious' about crab crisis

The association that represents nearly all snow crab producers in this province will not be at the table in Deer Lake today for hearings into the crisis in the industry.

Derek Butler, executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), confirmed this on Tuesday.

"It was just too quick," Butler stated when contacted by The Telegram.

He also complained that there were no terms of reference for the hearing.

Gerry Byrne (left) and Derek Butler

The association that represents nearly all snow crab producers in this province will not be at the table in Deer Lake today for hearings into the crisis in the industry.

Derek Butler, executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), confirmed this on Tuesday.

"It was just too quick," Butler stated when contacted by The Telegram.

He also complained that there were no terms of reference for the hearing.

"There was no clear sense of what they were examining," Butler said.

Butler said he was contacted about the hearings last Wednesday, and said he didn't have time to write a formal presentation.

"I said, 'I think I'll pass.'"

The hearings are being held by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, and come at a time of deep crisis in the Canadian shellfish industry.

Fishermen in this province hold a large chunk of the snow crab quota, with hundreds of vessels engaged in the harvest more than 30 pro- duction facil-ities scattered throughout the province.

This year's harvest was delayed by a month as producers and harvesters bickered over the raw material price for crab, and there have been repeated calls for dramatic structural changes in order to make the fishery economical.

Harvesters in the Maritimes and Quebec are also reeling from a 63 per cent cut to the allowable catch in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne, who is the Liberal critic on Fisheries and Oceans and a member of the standing committee, initiated the crab review.

He said many of the key players in the Newfoundland crab industry will appear before the com- mittee. The only exception is the ASP.

Byrne said he is "very disappointed" and he said the views of the ASP would ensure the committee hears a "balance" of views.

He called the ASP a "priority witness" and said if Butler was not available to attend, someone else should.

"There's greater depth to the ASP than just the executive director," Byrne stated.

The all-party committee will hold hearings at the Immaculate Conception Parish Hall in Deer Lake beginning today at 9:30 am.

Provincial Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman will make a presentation, along with representatives from the Fish, Food and Allied Workers' union (FFAW).

Other presenters include a group of independent fish harvesters and international seafood industry expert John Sackton, president of Seafood.com.

The standing committee will prepare a formal report on the hearings and present a series of recommendations to the House of Commons.

Byrne said an interim report could be tabled as early as next month.

He stressed that the committee's work will be done with or without the co-operation of the ASP.

"Bottom line? We are going to be making recommendations about this industry. If the ASP is serious about it, they should welcome their inclusion in this," Bryne said.

"I would think it would be in their best interest to have their views presented and properly understood by the committee."

Meanwhile, Butler acknowledged he should have been part of the hearings, and said there was no deliberate attempt to snub the committee.

"The ASP will be pleased to submit a written brief to the committee with our thoughts on industry structure and reform," Butler wrote later in an e-mail to The Telegram.

Byrne said a written submission is not a "full measure" because committee members will not be able to ask questions.

"It's a one-way dialogue in that case," Byrne said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Association of Seafood Producers, House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries, Allied Workers Seafood.com House of Commons

Geographic location: Deer Lake, Quebec, Newfoundland

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