Premier says there are no easy answers to fishery

James McLeod
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When Premier Kathy Dunderdale really gets talking about the fishery, she gets angry and she gets exasperated.

She sees it as an industry dominated by self-interested players scoring cheap political points at the expense of real people.

"It is extremely frustrating," Dunderdale said. "The people who are suffering here and having the worst effect of it have been manipulated almost from Day 1 in terms of this industry."

Since the Oct. 11 provincial election, the fishery has emerged as the No. 1 political issue in the province.

In a year-end interview with Dunderdale, more than half the conversation was dominated by the fishery.

Repeatedly, she stressed that solving the industry's systemic problems won't come without pain, and only the federal government has the kind of deep pockets necessary to provide the money for restructuring.

"We have overcapacity in the fishery. That's the same as pulp and paper, isn't it? When you have overcapacity, something has to close. When you close things, people get displaced. That's why you need your other partners to help mitigate the impacts," Dunderdale said.

"We can't do it by ourselves, and people who keep suggesting that we can do it by ourselves are dreaming in Technicolor."

Compared to her predecessor, Danny Williams, Dunderdale has taken a markedly different tack in dealing with the federal government.

She defended that more conciliatory approach, implying that Williams' notoriously combative attitude was more about ego than results.

"I can go down and be the fighting Newfoundlander on that wharf with a bucket of rocks and be flinging them full time at the federal government. And I might look like the real hero, you know, that I'm stood up for the rights of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," Dunderdale said. "Am I serving their best interest? In my mind I'm not."

The specific issue facing the provincial government right now is Ocean Choice International's decision to close the Marystown fish plant.

OCI wants to move operations to a smaller plant in Fortune, and ship most of their quota of yellowtail flounder out of the province unprocessed.

Fish, Food and Allied Workers' president Earle McCurdy has come out forcefully against this plan, arguing that the province should be able to keep both the Marystown and Fortune plants open.

"On yellowtail, we can take it out and we can process it and nobody can buy it because it's too expensive," she said.

"If there is no market for processed yellowtail under a certain weight, no market for it, then why are we going to process it?"

Dunderdale said that if people want to "leave the fish in the water" as some people are suggesting, that's fine, but it's important to fully understand what that means.

"We could leave the fish in the water. I'm fine with that," she said. "We may lose jobs elsewhere, and if we don't fish the quota, we might lose the quota and then somebody else would be coming and harvesting the yellowtail with the 150 harvesting jobs and sending it overseas. All I'm saying is, let's have the discussion."

But she only wants to have that discussion if the players will "stop playing games" and find some answers.

"There's a whole lot of people always trying to position you in a certain place because it takes the heat off them and it takes the spotlight off them. We all know what the issues are in the fishery. They've been identified time over time," she said.

"The thing is, you can't do anything by yourself. The processes have to come, the FFAW has to come.

"The federal government has to come." Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: Allied Workers

Geographic location: Marystown, Technicolor

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Recent comments

  • You are Right on
    May 19, 2012 - 17:24

    The most important natural resource in the World the "fish resources" is a renewable resource and is far from dead. You people who are advocating that we forget about that industry should, indeed, shut-up and go to bed. Please read the article below if you want to be rejuvenated.

  • You Folks who say the fishery is a dead issue, go back to bed and save us the agony
    April 19, 2012 - 09:12

    You folks who think that the fishery is a sink hole, please get your heads adjusted properly. The fishery even in the state that the Federal Government has allowed it to regress into is still a "renewable resource" and as long as there are 2 fish existing of the same species they can propagate. All the Federal Government has to do is put a moratorium on all species for a few short years and those fish will come back to the way they were, as described, by John Cabot's crew, who said the fish were so plentiful, the crew reported the fish were teeming and they could be scooped up in a basket. Ottawa please give up your reliance on the "fish resource" so as to create International Trade for surplus Canadian Agrigulture and Manufactured goods and put an end to the madness you have allowed to reign in the fishery for the past 63 years. Put a Moratorium on all species right now. And you folk, as I said who think the fishery is destroyed completely and that we should forget about the resource, please get back to reality and shut up commenting on something you don't know about. What you are basically saying is give it all the fish quotas to CETA for the European Union's benefit and the benefit of other nations that Ottawa's wants to do trade with.

  • brad
    December 18, 2011 - 21:59

    Dunderdale says Danny was all about ego not results? is this lady for real? It is her right to choose Stephen Harper over Danny Williams, but don't insult our intelligence by saying Danny got no results. She embarrasses herself by pretending she isn't riding the coattails of the premier who got this province more than any premier ever has. Her lack of loyalty says everything about her lack of character.

  • Duffy
    December 18, 2011 - 14:51

    There is an easy solution: STOP handing out money to a dying industry with no hope of recovery. Sometimes you can't live in Momma's back yard and work across the street for 12 weeks a year the rest of your life while other hard working people pay your EI (Welfare).

  • Aubrey
    December 18, 2011 - 10:59

    This is a very difficult file for sure and there are no easy answers,however it is not as difficult as the day to day lives of our plant workers. If this only started this year it would be different. Try getting less and less work every year,working for less money and therefore recieving less for EI as a result ,while your cost of living keeps going up and up. Then the big companies like OCI wants to take more away including your very livelyhood itself. The stress must be unbearable! I am not a plant worker and I have never been,but I stand behind them as we all should.Any Company,province,its government or its people can only be successful if they do right by these hard working plant workers and any other people who need our undivided attention and help.

  • Ernest Taylor
    December 18, 2011 - 10:45

    You can find a wide range of comments on Newfoundland History Buffs (a FB space). Check under a picture of trawlers tied up at the plant in Marystown. This issue needs a good public debate. Our history of making wise fishery decisions in the Newfoundland and Labrador is abysmal. I would hate to see history repeated. Good luck.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 18, 2011 - 09:46

    Allen, with respect ---- if plant workers are making less per hour now than in 2004, what does that say? ???? ++++++ If you review the data from the Williams/Hearn fisheries summit you will find that in 2005 the Earned Incomes of plant workers then were on average 7% LESS THAN they were in 1990 !!!!!!!!. +++++ So,,,, you are not adequately pointing out how the processing/value added sector, how the plant workers are being short changed ---- and big time. +++++++ Part of of the problem is, as you say, 'plan workers are not asking for a lot'. +++++ They should not only be asking for a damned lot more, but demanding a whole lot more out of 'their' adjacent resource.+++++ The "production value' has doubled, while plant workers are making less. That should never be. And the best OCI will do is set one town up against another (so that they can blackmail a decision in their favour).

  • Casey
    December 18, 2011 - 07:33

    Actually there is an easy solution to the problems in NL's fishery. The main culprit in all this is the feds.NAFO continues to fish at will offshore, while no one in Ottawa wants to do anything about it. After a 20 year moratorium the cod stocks should have made a full recovery by now. NAFO allowed foreigners to catch 20 million pounds of cod the first year they re-opened the cod fishery on the Flemish Cap. Then there is by-catch on the Nose and Tail. We are talking about a straddling resource, the fish don't know anything about a 200 mile limit. The people making decisions about NL's fishery in Ottawa need to get real and start managing this resource for the good of the people who brought it with them into this Canadian Federation and stop kissing up to NAFO.

  • Mark
    December 17, 2011 - 19:16

    To Kathy Dunderdale's credit, she has clearly spent more time thinking about the fishery than her predecessor ever did.

  • Allan Moulton
    December 17, 2011 - 17:09

    With all due respect as has been suggested overcapacidy can only come from issueing to many lisences... the provincial government controlls that.. however the issue facing us in the flatfish buisness is not overcapacidy or lack of resourse we have an abundance of flatfish at our disposal.. And we have already worked with the companies and government to allow the shipping out of the smaller yellowtail where they have competition(the under 450 gram fish) and the entire quota of 10 million lbs of Red Fish the company was processing and selling every pound of fish over 450 gram fish as i understand it.The real problem here is corporate greed and you find out regardless of how much workers do to help it is never enough... if this deal is permitted to hapen we will see a repeat of past history with corporate heads of companies walking away with millions of dollars from an industry supposingly not making any money while workers and their famalies again left with nothing...and one thing that is for sure and certain this company is making money but unfortunately nobody is permitted to see just how well they are doing as a company. workers are and have done everything possible to help including working for less wages per hour than they earned in 2004 thats 7-8 years ago.. if someone went out and did an audit on those famalies and what they have lost over the years as their cost of living continued to rise people would have to wonder why more is not done to assist them... government has done much to try an help some of those companies yet each time they rejected help and voted against it. it really is time something was given back to the workers and tey arent asking for a lot .. just an opportunity to go to work and help make a contribution to this provinces economy as they are used to doing..... and on behalf of the workers i want to thank the people of the province for all your support... lets continue to put the people of our province and our resourses first.

  • Dave
    December 17, 2011 - 16:24

    Step 1: Take back oceans from corporations - expropriate from the mis-managers Step 2: Emphasize community-based, natural, organic, in-shore fishing and processing Step 3: Pursue local, Canadian, NA specialty markets embracing local, sustainable fisheries Build something sustainable, regardless of the immediate political and economic implications

  • Graham
    December 17, 2011 - 16:04

    Our Premier dosent ahve the answers to may many questions thats exactly why she refused to open The House of Assembly. Danny trained her very well.

  • Charles
    December 17, 2011 - 15:54

    Mr Bennett. that question concerning leadership...should also apply to one MR BALL...the new Leader of the Liberal...BUT WAIT...HE ONLY CONCERN ABOUT PAYING THE LIBERAL DEPT.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 17, 2011 - 14:57

    Premier ---- you are buying into the same ol, same ol misguided mantra, one that serves the purpose of "greed" ---- "we have overcapacity". +++++++ That mantra serves the purpose of those who have greed at heart. ++++++++ What we really have is a lack of vision, for some species -- insufficient resource, very little value-added, a cash crop/industrial approach to the industry, a push for a continued, unsustainable approach to what should be (and can be) the multi-billion dollar, renewable, sustainable economic foundation for our coastal fishing communities. ++++++ Do not settle for less. Do what your predecessor could not. Step one ---- have the right goal/vision.

  • David
    December 17, 2011 - 13:44

    The reason that the government has seemingly now woken up to the real problems in the fishery, and to the merits of letting any industry sort itself out per the laws of free markets and economics, is that they now have something else ---oil. They don't need to keep buying off towns with fish quotas and processor commitments that make no sense. They can reap the electoral rewards of their wonderful oversight (!) of the biggest boom that will ever be, wash their hands of that sordid heathen outport problem and focus on being well-dressed oil barons with the funny accent. Ironically, they have even LESS understanding of that business, but there's just so much money in it that no one will ever notice the wild expenditures, the misappropriations, and the waste...what a great time to be a Newfoundland politician! Thanks for nothing, ST. John's. Shame on you. And shame on Newfoundland -- all you go back to Occupying Wall Street. What a disgrace.

  • charles
    December 17, 2011 - 13:25

    Premier Dunderdale you're looking at the picture all wrong...look at it from a difference angle...then you will see the light.... BECAUSE THE LIBERAL OR THE NDP DON'T HAVE ANYONE THAT CAN SEE PASS THERE NOSE.

  • Christopher Chafe
    December 17, 2011 - 11:03

    As much as I dislike her politics and the house being closed, I have to agree with what she is saying on this issue. The provincial government alone can no longer keep dumping money into bail-outs for the fishery. It is time for all 4 parties involved in the fishery to come to the table and stop acting like crying babies. If the people in the fishery want the the 10/42 or 18/34 lifestyle then they need to have their union leader stop the back biting and pitting community against community and come to the table and WORK WITH the other parties and work out a deal that will benefit the fishers but at the same time benefit the processors, only when this happens will the taxpayers of this province be able to cut up the revolving charge account the provincial government has with the fishing industry.

  • Christopher Chafe
    December 17, 2011 - 10:16

    As much as I dislike her politics and the house being closed, I have to agree with what she is saying on this issue. The provincial government alone can no longer keep dumping money into bail-outs for the fishery. It is time for all 4 parties involved in the fishery to come to the table and stop acting like crying babies. If the people in the fishery want the the 10/42 or 18/34 lifestyle then they need to have their union leader stop the back biting and pitting community against community and come to the table and WORK WITH the other parties and work out a deal that will benefit the fishers but at the same time benefit the processors, only when this happens will the taxpayers of this province be able to cut up the revolving charge account the provincial government has with the fishing industry.

  • Dianne Soo
    December 17, 2011 - 09:54

    Mr Ball get on this ...sense your our new Liberal Leader...i'm sure you can solve this problem

  • Harvey
    December 17, 2011 - 08:46

    Ms. Dunderdale, do you not realize that the Fed. Gov't has rarely had an interest in the fishery.? It has never stood up to foreign over-fishing; it has mainly used the resource as a pawn on the international trade market. "Playing games"...isn't Minister King playing games> Are you aware that Fortune is in his district? And allow the Sullivan's one step more, in five years time there will not be a NL will be ,totally, a Sullivan fishery.

  • Jim Bennett
    December 17, 2011 - 08:38

    The biggest problem in our fishery is that the Provincial Government doesn't know where it want the industry to be in the future, say 3, 5 and 10 years down the road. We are the second largest nation on earth, surrounded on the north, east and west by 3 oceans and bounded on the south by the greatest economic power on earth. We have the benefit of NAFTA and have the easiest access to the US market of any country on earth. Canada's largest food export is seafood! Not wheat and not beef. The NL fishery represents 20% of the Canadian fishery. Alaska, with just 700,000 people, the same as New Brunswick, lands 60% more seafood than NL, yet triples that value through processing and marketing. Their fishing fleet ranges in size from 20 feet to 300 feet long. Their seafood industry is worth over 5 billion and employs over 78,000 people. How can we say that we have overcapacity with only 20,000 people employed? We don't. What we have is underutilizaton of a valuable resource by a small number of wealthy people at the expense of the people and our economy. Shipping out unprocessed fish adds little to no value to any economy, so why do we do it? Food will always be in style! We have a expanding global population with more money to spend every year. Canada has a fantatic international reputation for food safety. With just a little vision and leadership from our Premier and her Fisheries Minister we could be reaping huge benefits from the sea instead of wringing our collective hands in despair about how bad the fishery is. Jim Bennett Liberal Fisheries Critic

  • W Bagg
    December 17, 2011 - 07:55

    Why do we have over capacity, who manages the licensing and let's fish plants open etc....

  • roy
    December 17, 2011 - 07:40

    Do we finally have a premier who nas the guts to stand up and do something about the fishery, someone who isn't looking for poloitical points, now if the federal govt and the fishery union will be honest and do something maybe we will get something that will work. I see that Mr Bennett the new Lib. leader appears to be looking in this same direction, i hope he is not waiting to score points. by give the fisherpersons false hope as the union leader is doing and hoping that the govt takes him out of a bind

  • Bill
    December 17, 2011 - 07:29

    She sees it as an industry dominated by self-interested players scoring cheap political points at the expense of real people. If this is the case she is surely taking a stand off wait and see approach. She needs to take on those self-interested players and find some reasonable solutions to help the real people.