Joint effort crucial for fishery, says FFAW board member

Terri Saunders
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Gander — For a good part of the last decade, Paul Kean has had a recurring conversation with one of his children who moved to Alberta a while back.

“I’ve got a son up in Grand Prairie now. He calls home, like he has for seven years, to say, ‘I want to come home, Dad. I want to go fishing. I want to get on a crew boat.’

“He has it in his blood, but all he hears from everyone is that there’s no future in the fishery.”

Kean knows about the fishery and its future. For years, he’s been working in the industry in this province, and currently represents workers at the Beothic Fish Processors Ltd. plant in Valleyfield in his role as a board member with the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW).

At the union’s annual general meeting, held in Gander, Kean urged his fellow delegates to support a resolution advocating the assignment of quotas to “people who fish and invest in fishing vessels.”

Kean said the survival of the industry will hang on the level of control harvesters have over the resource, as well as the control exerted by large processing companies, and it’s essential that those harvesters know they have the support of all segments of the industry.

“It’s absolutely necessary for us all to support each other, no matter what the sector of the industry. We’ve got declining enrolment in our plant numbers, we have harvesters retiring and getting out of the fishery, therefore the strength is not with our members like it should be.

“We need solidarity, and we need every member to support each other, and that’s the reason why we got past some of the turmoil related to issues in the past. We didn’t just have harvesters. We had plant workers there supporting each other, and that’s what we’ve got to maintain in order to go forward.”

Kean said a joint effort is crucial if the industry is to survive, because that’s what it will take to attract young people to the job.

“If the harvesters don’t bring the product to the plants, where are our plants? We’re struggling as it is, so it’s absolutely necessary that we unite. We have to be strong, and make sure we’ve got a viable industry, if not for ourselves, then for the people coming in behind.

“You hear all sorts of things in communities about the fishery. But if we do our marketing properly, if we approach things properly, we can have a viable fishery and people will want to come in behind us, and we must get that mindset straight in the people who have the interest.”


Industry changes

George Feltham is a fisherman from the Eastport Peninsula. He is also a board member with the FFAW.

He said he’s bothered by the changes he’s seen over the years when it comes to the number of people actually working and making a living in the fishery.

“There are 150 licences gone in the lobster fishery to make it better for the people that are here. That’s 300 people. That’s equivalent to a processing plant scattered through the province, through the communities,” he said.

“I come from the Eastport Peninsula. It’s a tourism area, but there were roughly 90 harvesters on the Eastport Peninsula that had crews. Now, we’re down to probably 60 that have crews.”

Feltham said fewer harvesters working in the industry translates into fewer jobs in communities around the province, including those in his area.

“We had two plants that were operating, I’m not sure how many weeks, but probably 20 or 30 weeks a year. Now, we have one plant that’s operating to the point of probably 60 workers, and another plant of 25 workers.

“We are feeling the effects, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a plant closure or a harvester that’s losing control, we have to build this industry and we can’t do it with the companies controlling the quotas.”

Feltham said losing control of the harvesting sector means harvesters have to compete with large companies, something he said is impossible to do.

“We can’t compete with companies because we don’t have the processing plants to be able to do that. They’re the ones that are controlling the harvesters to the point they can set prices, they can dictate markets, they can manipulate markets, whereas we are the bottom line. We have no one else to pass it to.”

He said both communities and industry players have to come together to save the fishery.

“Harvesters have to contribute to our communities as well. The harvesters have to control the quotas, and create meaningful work in their communities where possible.

“We have to create work, with the ability that we can, with the resource that we’ve got, that makes it feasible for both plant workers and harvesters as well.”


The Beacon

Organizations: Beothic Fish Processors, Allied Workers union

Geographic location: Gander, Alberta, Grand Prairie Valleyfield

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Recent comments

  • PHIL C.
    January 03, 2013 - 03:16


    January 01, 2013 - 09:38

    Years ago when there were small rich fishing communities all around the island,there was a Co. formed called FBI, Fishery Products International This Co. had the richest fish market in the world, It was formed to collect the fish from all those rich fishing towns and bring it to market. Then this fishing Co. that was formed to collect the fish and bring to market for the fishermen,Started to fish and compete with the fishermen, It had large factory trawlers ,Now FPI when it was sold it don't need the fishermen or the fish plants, when they sold FPI they sold the fishery, FPI don't need fish plants with factory freezer trawlers they can fish and bring then fish to market all done aboard those factory ships, They don't need fish plants or hundreds of workers, When they sold FPI they sold the fishery, Now small rich fishing towns like white bay that was rich fishing towns now people are leaving to go to Alberta looking for work, It is talk of the fish plant in Grand Bank not opening, Can anyone believe that a fish plant on the Grand Banks Of NFLD not opening? here must be something wrong.

  • phil earle
    December 31, 2012 - 10:56

    Some of us have been trying every thing possible to fore tell the path of doom of the present path of the Fishery. The coporate path of the big processor, FFT's (foreign and local) and the governments who collude and direct this course. The words in this Beacon article tell a truth that must happen for our coastal people and communities and fishers to survive. The only way we can save ourselves is to unite as one, all of us, coastal people, plant workers, fishers big and small, young and old, male and female, fathers and mothers and grand parents, ministers, teachers, Mayors and Counciler's, every one. All together ..tell the our government , our local elected official's in every district and town...that they must represent US, the mass of the people. We want the fishery brought back from the brink of the peoples despair and the wealth of the elite to the profitability of the processor and the Prosperity of Coastal Communities and the Success of ALL Harvestors, large and small. phil earle

  • Casey
    December 29, 2012 - 13:41

    With the stocks recovering I hope there will soon be a Cod Fishery. The naysayers claim there is no one who wants to work in the industry. Don't believe it, like any other industry people will line up if they can make a living. Fishermen need to be better organized and demand answers from Ottawa on it's plans for the re-opening of the fishery. Also the salmon stocks are healthy enough to support at least a limited commercial fishery. The recreational fishery should not have this resource all to themselves. Greedy or what? Now if only the so-called experts can see fit to listen to the the people of the outports and limit the cod fishery to traps and hook&line you will have yourself a viable and sustainable industry for hundreds of years. Mr. Dalley please don't allow companies like OCI to ship away anymore unprocessed product. Leave it in the water until the time is right. Of course Ottawa will have to come onside and work with the provincial government and others in the industry for most of this to happen.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 28, 2012 - 10:57

    The U.S. has a deep water fishing fleet of 200 vessels. China had 2,000 in 2010 and planned a 16% increase for a total of 2,300 "deep sea" vessels. An EU report this year said that while China reported only 344,000 tonnes of high seas catch for 2010-2011, its estimated actual haul was more than 41 million tonnes...........On Wednesday past Argentina reported capturing two Chinese fishing vessels fishing illegally inside its 200 mile zone and had to fire warning shots to prevent them from fleeing. In recent weeks South Korea arrested a Chinese fishing vessels for illegally fishing its waters This info gleaned from an article in today's Globe and Mail. And are we teaming up with China?