People afraid to discuss how to restructure fishery: Sullivan

Josh Pennell
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One of the biggest challenges of modernizing the province’s fishery, says Martin Sullivan, chief executive officer of Ocean Choice International, is that it’s taboo to even discuss what might have to be done in order to restructure it.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Employer’s Council (NLEC) is holding its annual conference at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s. A CEO panel discussion opened the conference Wednesday morning featuring (from left) Peter Woodward, president of operations of the Woodward Group of Cos. discussing transportation and infrastructure issues in Labrador; Martin Sullivan, CEO of Ocean Choice International discussing the competitiveness of the fishery and Jason Muise, managing director of Technip Canada in St. John’s, who shared the viewpoint of a multinational firm operating in Newfoundland & Labrador. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Sullivan commented on the challenge of modernizing the local fishery during a panel discussion of the Newfoundland & Labrador Employers’ Council annual conference Wednesday.

”There are over 20,000 people working in the fishery but there’s only 9,000 full-time equivalents,” Sullivan said. ”Really what it means is the average worker is working four or five months a year. That’s OK when you’re 55 or 60 and you’ve only ever worked in the fishery. You’re in a rural area and you own your house. But getting a young person to come in? The only place we can attract young people is in our head office or in our sales offices around the world.”

Sullivan said that it was a huge challenge of which people are very aware, but also afraid to deal with or even debate.

“There’s an institutional problem, I think, in terms of how to deal with these real challenging issues in an open and frank way without getting personal.”

Fewer people working in the industry would mean full-time work rather than seasonal and it would also offer support of a good, competitive wage, Sullivan added. Sullivan painted a portrait of these changes being imperative for a younger generation to take an interest in the fishery.

FFAW president Earle McCurdy agreed that finding young people to enter the fishery is of vital importance, but he disagreed with the notion that fewer people have to be involved in the industry to restructure it.

“I never bought reducing the number of people as an objective,” McCurdy said.

McCurdy wasn’t at the conference, but was contacted by phone following the panel discussion.

The union has sought a rationalization of the fishery — not to change the number of people in it, but to increase the income.

McCurdy didn’t agree with Sullivan’s notion that reducing the number of those involved was how to reach that goal. The big hurdle is not that there are too many people in the fishery but that it costs too much to get into it. It’s not just a matter of catching more fish, according to McCurdy.

“Whether or not a bigger quota means somebody is better off depends on how much debt they incurred to obtain a quota,” he said.

Few can afford to enter the fishery without crippling themselves so financially that there’s no way for them to fish their way out of it, McCurdy said.

Sullivan was very focused on at least talking about the issue and possible solutions.

“We really have to engage that debate,” he said.



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Recent comments

  • Michael Lodsin
    November 18, 2013 - 14:55

    Start learning about aquaculture . Do it in the closed plant. Permanent JOBS for EVERY ONE-young and old . Do you know ANY LAZY FISHERMAN?. Of course not. You CAN DO THIS! GOD BLESS EVERYONE

  • little man
    November 18, 2013 - 09:19

    by o by their at it again mr Sullivan the first thing that should be done is for the fish merchant to go home sit down shut up and listen the biggest problem with the fishery is the old merchant is forgetting that the little man started him of his forgetting where he come from and the young merchant wasn,t told the difference and if the hot shots wants it all that's never goin to happen their not givin my share to the EU and that I,m god dam sure of and if they don,t give me any cod to catch if the market rebounds I,m catchin it anyway I owns the fish to Sullivan the same as u and if the fish merchant in newfoundland wants to stop me from filling my deep freeze and stop me from paying my light bill well now that's a horse of another colour now isn,t I guess they better watch what wire they cross,in ps treat us fishermen right and ye all have no trouble treat us wrong and ye,ll have more than ye can handle the days off workin for our diet and no thank u is over isn,t it

  • Hank
    November 15, 2013 - 07:00

    Give the fishery back to the fishermen and those small prospers, rich little towns that was established because of the fishery. Those small towns that grew up around the small fishing ports , all around the island that were rich in fish, To collect and market this fish they formed fishery products INT which had the largest market in the world for fish. But then FPI the Co, that was started to be a market for the fishermen fish, started to compete with the fisher men for the fish with those multi billion Dollar Floating Fish Factories, That could catch and process the fish at sea ready for the market? They do not need fish plants in those small ports or towns. They only need a couple of floating factory ships that can process what ever fish that can be caught, by automation , packaged and processed ready for the market. WHEN THEY SOLD FPI THEY SOLD THE FISHERY.

  • david
    November 14, 2013 - 10:43

    There will never...not in a million years enough political backbone or leadership nor public agreement to 'fix' the fishery. We are who we are, and our fate on this is simply undeniable and unstoppable.

  • Matthews
    November 14, 2013 - 10:13

    The problem as I see it is that what makes perfectly good business sense is not necessarily acceptable socially and thus, politically. Placating voters is what our politicians do best.

  • Ken Collis
    November 14, 2013 - 06:26

    A good first step would be to allow fishers to sell to whoever will pay the best price. No more bending the laws for the Sullivans and leaving the fishermen stranded, as usual.

    • MJ
      November 14, 2013 - 08:56

      I agree totally, free trade is free trade and if the goverment wants to go down that road they should do it all the way. Goverment should inforce legeslation and support to ensure fisherman can not be forced to sell to any one broker. They should be able to sell directly to European brokers if they choose, but no one is bring up this issue and chances are it is not on the table, otherwise Sullivan would not support this Free Trade Agreement. Free Trade for everyone, not just the rich!!!!!!

  • Harry
    November 14, 2013 - 05:15

    Mr Sullivan, I have to agree with you on this one, I live in a fishing community. Things are getting harder to make a living. Do the fishery need to be restructure? answer is yes, Can it be done? answer is yes. My community has a closed fish plant. nothing is going on there. just people wondering what are they going to do next. I recall meeting a man from the west coast, back in July. By the name of Charles Murphy, The one the liberal said no to, we were talking about the closed fish plant. And he said to me, he couldn't understand why the building wasn't put to use for the people of the area. So I ask him what would he do with the plant. He said if I was your MHA, he would put people to work, At the same time remove some of the burden from the fishery.