Union slams shrimp cuts

Moira Baird
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FFAW says inshore fishermen and plant workers getting ‘royally shafted’

FFAW president Earle McCurdy speaks to reporters Friday concerning the shrimp industry. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The Anything But Conservative campaign is back on — at least it is for the leader of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW) union.

FFAW president Earle McCurdy said inshore fishermen will unfairly bear the brunt of shrimp quota cuts that were quietly announced Thursday by the Harper government.

Shrimp quotas for inshore fishermen in Zone 6 will be cut by 40 per cent compared to a 10-per-cent cut for offshore harvesters.

“If anyone can make a case that that’s fair, I’d like to hear it,” McCurdy told reporters Friday.

Zone 6 spans the southern Labrador coastline to northeastern Newfoundland about as far as Cape Freels.

“We’re going to fight this tooth and nail. That just isn’t good enough,” said McCurdy.

“I can’t imagine anyone who works in the shrimp fishery, on a fishing vessel, or in a shrimp plant … would even contemplate voting for somebody who’d give us that kind of a shaft.”

Overall, the inshore shrimp fleet is facing quota cuts totalling 52 million pounds this year compared to last year.

McCurdy said that reduction is the equivalent of shutting down four shrimp plants.

‘Share the pain’

Last fall, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) reduced the total allowable catch for shrimp off Newfoundland by 37 per cent to 19,000 tonnes.

McCurdy acknowledged the shrimp stocks are in decline, but said the inshore fleet shouldn’t shoulder the brunt of quota cuts.

“I think it’s well known that that resource is not what it was three or four years ago. We recognize there’s going to be quota cuts this year.

“Share the pain on an equitable basis,” he said. “If anybody wonders why we wanted the MOU to produce something, why we wanted things like adjustment programs for dislocated people, Why we wanted fleet reduction to help accommodate quota cuts, I think surely it’s obvious now.

“I think we’re paying dearly.”

McCurdy estimates up to 1,800 fish harvesters and 1,500 workers at 13 shrimp plants will suffer an “awful wallop” to their finances this year.

“If anyone can make a case that that’s fair, I’d like to hear it.” Earle McCurdy

“Every shrimp plant in this province has a huge question mark over it.”

He said two principles should apply in deciding how shrimp quotas are assigned or cut — adjacency and where the bulk of the jobs are.

‘Bare bones’ email

McCurdy is also irked by the way the news was delivered — via a “bare bones” email from a federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans official.

“No such thing as a phone all or anything saying, look, we’ve got some really bad news here,” he said. “What we got was an email yesterday (Thursday) telling us just how royally we’re going to get shafted.”

He said the shrimp quota cuts were described as an interim decision, but he isn’t sure what that means.

McCurdy said the interim quota leaves up to 20 million pounds of shrimp in the water.

He suggested the quota hold-back could be an election ploy.

“Are they hoping that they’ll have some of their candidates maybe pretend that they were the ones who got a little extra at the last minute, and somehow that would help their electoral chances?”

Lower Churchill promise

News of the quota cuts came as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in St. John’s to announce a loan guarantee, or equivalent, for the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydro development.

McCurdy said the provincial government was “too busy giving the prime minister a standing ovation” Thursday to talk about shrimp plants closing and fishing enterprises going out of business.

He didn’t think much of Harper’s promise of a loan guarantee.

“A loan guarantee? That’s what you do with your young fella who’s getting his first car and he can’t get a loan. So you co-sign it for him so he can get the financing, not expecting to pay a cent on it.

“That’s not going to cost them a copper.”

mbaird@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Southern Labrador, Cape Freels

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Recent comments

  • KD
    April 03, 2011 - 08:14

    It seems the union wants to take every fish from the sea and put the blame at the feet of the government. Someone has to try to manage this resource especially when it is fished to the point of extention the same thing which happened to the cod. Mr Mccurdy is completely out to lunch and will do anything to keep his job.

  • Dolphy
    April 02, 2011 - 16:03

    I understand that most of these factory freezer shrimp trawlers are owned by commercial interest that do not live in newfoundland. the press should print the list of owners

  • Grub
    April 02, 2011 - 13:20

    With a Lower Churchill loan guarantee from the PC's this guy wants ABC. At the same time he has no poblem taking a chance and wipeing out the shrimp industry. This guy is a fool. He has never cared about the plant workers of this province. He should have been booted out years ago. We don't need his mouth and we don't need him.

  • harry l
    April 02, 2011 - 12:13

    earl the pearl vote pc ???/ r u nuts .. he would lose his job immideatly ... did u ever hear of a CASHIN voting pc ha ha ... who do u think gave earl the pearl this big job ..... go back to the sheep farm on the mainland earl .....

  • Brett
    April 02, 2011 - 11:36

    He didn’t think much of Harper’s promise of a loan guarantee. “A loan guarantee? That’s what you do with your young fella who’s getting his first car and he can’t get a loan. So you co-sign it for him so he can get the financing, not expecting to pay a cent on it. “That’s not going to cost them a copper.” And yet - you sign it so they pay prime + 3 not prime + 6 for an interest rate... So it does benefit NLers, and yet you thumb your nose. Were you going to vote conservative anyways Mr. FFAW and the shrimp thing made the difference?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 02, 2011 - 10:45

    So Mr. McCurdy is 'struck amazed', and (ostensibly) upset, that the feds will cut the northeast coast INSHORE shrimp quota by 40%, ----- when, at the same time, Mr. McCurdy is, through the MOU, calling for up to a 80% cut in the northeast coast INSHORE fishing fleet? In addition, he is also, at the same time, through the MOU, supporting a consolidation of 30% of the processing sector (which surely must mean the closing of some plants in that area). While Mr. McCurdy (and Minister Jackman) will supposedly be 'fighting' tooth and nail to get to the bottom of this quota cut, in almost the same breath Mr. McCurdy argues that the quota cut supports the MOU proposals and is another reason to proceed with the MOU report. I wonder if the quota cut by the feds has as much to do with helping justify the proposed MOU cuts to the INSHORE fleet as it has with conservation? After all, all parties (the union, the processors, the province, and the feds) --- all seem to be in this together and seem to want to get rid of the INSHORE fishing sector. So is timing of this quota cut a COINCIDENCE? You be the judge.