Fishermen angry at union over halibut quota

James McLeod
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Fishermen on the Northern Peninsula are complaining that their union is trying to shut them out of the lucrative halibut fishery, and Liberal fisheries critic Jim Bennett says the union is in a conflict of interest.

But FFAW representative Jason Spingle says the union is just trying to give everyone a fair crack at fishing.

In the case of Roy Gaslard, his application for quota was in past the deadline, although still well before the fishery opened.

Ford Mitchelmore said his application was denied because even though he fished for halibut last year, he didn’t catch any.

“I’ve had a licence since 1991,” Mitchelmore said. “I didn’t get one, but I did fish it. I had a hundred hooks out there.”

Both men said they believe that the FFAW is trying to get people out of the fishery because there are too many people fishing and not enough quota to go around.

Spingle said in recent years there’s been much more halibut in the water, and closer to shore, so a fishery that was traditionally done by a handful of longliners is now being done by more people.

“Up until about seven or eight years ago, no more than about 50 boats, with the vast majority of the quota being taken by 25 or 30 longliners,” he said. “We’ve gone from literally 50 up to 500.”

Spingle said the union has held meetings with fishermen and tried to come up with the best way to divvy up the quota.

“There’s no one forced out of anything anywhere in Newfoundland, but particularly here in western Newfoundland where there’s competitive fisheries,” Spingle said. “We’re trying to find a balance that’s somewhere in the middle. And we know that we’re not going to have too many fans, really, in the big picture.”

He said they’re not trying to keep anybody out of it, but as for people such as Mitchelmore and Gaslard, everyone has to follow the rules.

“Show up one day late with your moose application not filed,” he said. “You’ve got no moose licence, have you?”

Part of the anger is that fishermen file their applications through the FFAW, and they say they feel like the union is working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to get people out of the fishery.

Bennett said he believes it’s a conflict of interest, and the union shouldn’t be in the business of helping to decide how to divvy up the quota.

“They’re making rules that are unrelated to union activities, and I believe they’re in a conflict of interest,” Bennett said. “They should be on the labour side more, organizing labour.”

Bennett said in other provinces, that’s a role that the government takes on.

“Our provincial government is completely hands-off in dealings with DFO in that respect. I can’t find any instance where they’ve asked DFO to let us participate,” he said. “Our provincial government is far too laissez-faire with the fishery, and it’s not committed to the fishery whatsoever.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Mark
    July 24, 2013 - 14:07

    Betty, I don't have customers, and my boss isn't my girlfriend. Why are all your comeback messages based on assumptions and things you just make up? If you are going to throw in a witty comeback could it, you know, be based on real stuff?

  • Betty
    July 23, 2013 - 16:11

    If more people spend less time on computer at work...Maybe customer wouldn't have to pay so much for there Is the manager your girlfreinds? lol

  • Mark
    July 23, 2013 - 13:31

    To Betty - That's some great detective work. You just caught me in the act of doing nothing wrong! I freely admit that I am at work right now, and I am getting paid right now. However, my manager and I have an understanding that it is ok for me to use this computer for personal use (online banking, reading the Telegram, et cetera) - as long as I get my job done, and I don't goof off all day. You see? I never took advantage of anything that isn't offered to me. Maybe if more fishermen and fishplant workers had taken advanatage of the gross amount of re-training dollars offered to them back in the early-mid 1990s, people like me wouldn't have to suffer them today.

  • Betty
    July 23, 2013 - 13:16

    To Mark and W...According to the posting of your time's and date's...Explain it to the people..Were ye getting paid for WHO TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE SITUATION

  • Mark
    July 23, 2013 - 10:09

    Well, said, W! Only Newfoundland and Labrador would have the highest unemployment rate in Canada while simultaneously having the site in Long Harbour that is desperate for skilled labour and fish plant workers flown in from Thailand because locals won't work the jobs. The cod fishery collapsed in 1992. I'm pretty sure eveyone who was in the fishery has had enough time to either retrain, re-locate, or retire. What makes the fishermen and fishplant workers so special? How come other people have to go work and always pay in, while we neow treat it as a natural given that it is right and proper that this other group should be carried?

  • W.
    July 23, 2013 - 09:14

    To Betty... we are the class who work full time jobs year round, pay the higest for EI premiums and not take from it, if we do take other employment, we pay the taxes and premiums related to the same, we do not expect the rest of society to pay for our necessities (whether we need them or not) and are SICK of hearing the same group of people looking for something that is obviously not there.... THAT'S THE CLASS WE'RE IN!!!!!

  • Betty
    July 23, 2013 - 04:53

    To Rob...What about the CONTRACTORS who higher worker who drawing social services...and putting them to work under the table...What about teachers...of in the summer...and working under the table...then you got firemen...list go on and on...Tell me Rob what class are you in? And people like you...Give me a break

  • david
    July 20, 2013 - 15:21

    Fishermen! What elses new? Fishermen having been angry for 2, 30 years now...a whole career. And what are they doing? They're still sitting there, moaning and bitching about fishing. Guess what? You're going to die eventually......what will you have accomplished with your life? Or do you think there's a special "life extension from heaven" for fishermen? umm, I have some bad news....

  • Rob
    July 20, 2013 - 08:26

    Oh yeah I'm real surprised that fishermen are not happy! If you gave them the whole sea they would come back looking for the beach! The problem is we gave them too much. Gave them a fortune yrs ago during the food closely. They scheme their way into getting their weeks for EI and then work under the table all winter taking jobs away from contractors trying to make a living. Sick and tired of listening to fishermen saying they r getting shafted! Lookin the are the guys doing the shafting. About time someone stood up to you guys!

    • a business man
      July 22, 2013 - 07:04

      There is nothing anyone can do to stop the EI abuse of the fishermen. All we can do now is kill the fishery so that no one else can start the great EI scan, and wait for the existing fishermen to die. Other than that, there is one more thing you can do: break the system. Spend your money in the US. Buy American. Cut the tax base of the government that gives the fishermen special treatment with our tax dollars. Frankly, I would rather pay taxes to a US state than support a system that does more for the fishermen than it does for me. At least the US states have right-to-work laws that support my business model.