MP hosts fishery discussion at public meeting

Colin MacLean
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“When cod bleed oil and gas, that’s when you’ll be looked at!”

It was a flippant comment hurled into the middle of the conversation by an unidentified fisherman, but it seemed to sum up the feelings in the room pretty well.

The event was dubbed Making Waves, and it was a small public gathering organized by Ryan Cleary’s office. The St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP invited anyone who was interested to come to The Battery Hotel in St. John’s to talk about the future of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery.

The question Cleary put to the crowd: How do we make waves and effect change in the fishery?

“Newfoundland and Labrador can’t just be about Band-Aids and short-term solutions and 18 weeks of work here and 20 weeks of work there,” said Cleary in his opening remarks. “We can’t be about that. There’s got to be a future in it with year-round jobs.”

After his preamble Cleary turned the floor over to the crowd and acted as a moderator and commentator.

Between 40 and 50 people crowded into one of the hotel’s small multipurpose rooms. Not a huge number considering the importance of the fishing industry to the province, but those who did show seemed to represent a cross-section of people with a stake in the industry.

There were scientists, retired politicians, sitting politicians, fishermen young and old, university students, business people and the just plain curious.

The discussion that came from this diverse group was lively, though there seemed to be a lot more questions raised than answers provided.

There was also a fair amount of finger-pointing at various factors that may led to the collapse of the northern cod stocks, although Cleary tried to keep the conversation aimed at what to do about the situation now rather than what went wrong decades ago.

The bit of conversation that seemed to get the most thoughtful comments came after someone thanked Cleary for standing up for the fishery in Ottawa, by first pushing for an inquiry into the collapse of the cod stocks and now for pushing for a recovery strategy. They also bemoaned what they called an apparent lack of political will to do anything about either of these ideas.

That elicited a comment from Paradise resident Wayne Holloway  who, by his own description, has nothing to do with the fishery other than being a proud Newfoundlander.


No unity

“If you look at the fishery, there isn’t unity in the harvesting sector. There isn’t unity in the processing sector. There isn’t unity amongst political parties,” said Holloway.

“So we’re all divided, which is an easy way for the federal government to manage us. And the more we keep fighting amongst ourselves and with ourselves the less effective we’re ever going to be on the fishery,” he said.

“In Ottawa there are more MPs missing from Ontario or sleeping on the back benches than we have representing us on any one day. So how can we have an impact in Ottawa when really ... (Cleary is) the only person fighting for us?”

Mike Hearn, a lifelong fisherman from Petty Harbour, had a similar point of view.

“I don’t care what stripe you are, NDP, PC or Liberal, go on do your thing. But you should be backing the fishery 100 per cent, which is not happening. The only way to make waves is if the Newfoundland government gets behind what (Cleary is) doing now. We could make big waves in Ottawa. Otherwise we’re not going to make it,” said Hearn.

Cleary used comments like these to springboard to his overarching theme throughout the meeting, which was the need for a long-term plan for the fishery.

Unity such as the kind these men talked about is what is needed to kick-start these plans, said Cleary.

“The problems I heard here this evening I heard 20 years ago. The problem is that we have these problems and nothing is ever done about them ... all these reports, all these studies  ... nothing is done. The point was made here tonight that we need the political will and fundamentally that’s what we need. We need the political will provincially first. Then you put the pressure on the feds that control the harvesting to do what needs to be done,” he said.

Organizations: The Battery Hotel

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Ontario Petty Harbour

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Recent comments

  • redrantingtory
    February 23, 2012 - 12:16

    First of all let me ask how many fishermen could make it to the Battery Hotel in the east end of St John's. A few yes but not the many that would show up if this were held in areas truly affected by the fishery. This idea is well commended and a good idea but somehow I feel it's all for not because you will never ever get the politicians, the fishermen, their unions and the producers to agree on ANYTHING. You can say what you like there is and have always been to much distrust between all parties. They are devided by years of mistrust, greed and selfishness. I had been around the fishery in one form or another since I was a child. I have seen it from all sides. To this day I can safely say I have not seen or heard of one instance of corporation. Everyone wants and no one wants to give. The foreigners raped the Grand Banks and other grounds for centureis. We brought in the 200 mile Limit and we began to rape it ourselves. All the while the Federal government kept handing large quota's to the still fishing Foreigners. We wanted every more and the politicians gave it to us. We are all to blame and until we realize that and come together we will forever be doomed to failure. Have what politicial will you like to change this boondoggle we call a fishery, in the end it all boils down to the grass roots and what they are willing to do. Are fishermen willing to take less? Are the unions willing to take less? Are producers willing to take less? I say no because the ever present greed and selfisheness will scuttle any plan. It's all been tried and there will never be a fix to satisfy everyone. Have what meetings you like. These parties will never agree. Just like whats happening today with the war between OCI and the unions. As far as I'm concerned neither side in this battle wins and they keep doing the same thing over and over. It's 20 or 30 years ago again. I say let the fishery sink until all these parties realize that to refloat it they will all have to corporate and give in. You would think we would have learned from 100 years of mistakes. No we keep bashing our heads against the same wall.

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 23, 2012 - 11:21

    PAUL...your comments about Mr. Morgan and Mr. Etchegarry, while probably correct about their PAST association with the fishery, does not do anything to address the PRESENT. All of us have made mistakes or held different viewpoints at some time or another but, with the benefit of hindsight, can see other options as we grow older. These two men are now fighting to reclaim what is left of our fishery....... what good does it do to put them down? We can't change what governments in this province or in Ottawa did....we can only go forward! The lack of unity among fishermen is similar to the lack of unity among our people when they reach back to criticize those who, in their opinion, didn't do things properly in the past. If the fishery is to stand a chance we must unite and that means ALL of us need to embrace former foes and rally to the cause. If a person is unable to get beyond the past, they contribute nothing to the needed solutions by simply reminding others of past sins. We need to learn from the past but we cannot use it as an excuse to do nothing or bash others. This resource is in a dire condition and will simply fade away unless we rally around it as a people.

  • p earle
    February 23, 2012 - 08:09

    Sorry I couldn't make the meeting but I am very pleased with the summary of the results as written in this article. (1) The problems of the past should be understood for the reason of how they affect what’s going on today. (2) Ottawa controls what happens to our fishery and they have been ingrained with a fisheries attitude of complacency, and 'give away'', as that was the attitude NL gave at the terms of agreement in 49, and it has continued for 62 years to present. We to fished accordingly with the same reckless attitude without respect for the resource, and each other, and our local governments went along for the ride allowing anything to happen! What we have done, AND ARE STILL DOING TODAY, is no better then what the foreign fleets have done...take whatever you can get of the little that’s left before it’s all gone and it is going, still, right now, today, before our eyes!!. (3) The only way to do anything about this tragedy is to have our local government speak up to Ottawa to protect and preserve the stocks by having them change the federal polices. To do that all sectors in the fishery, communities, fishers (all), plant workers, coastal peoples, FFAW, processors large and small have to be on side , in unity with the premier. With out that .... there is nothing for us in future. All shore Plants will close, inshore fishers will be but a memory and what fish there is caught on the coast will be done by FFT, by foreign and local companies, for the benefit of foreign jobs, trade and profits. All for the elite who have been given the quotas, whom ever they should be no matter where they live, by the greased hands of the federal government and it’s bureaucrats! P earle

  • Casey
    February 23, 2012 - 07:10

    Unless Ottawa comes onside there will be no recovery for the fishery. Check out the link below to get a good idea of how they have been mismanaging the fishery. Gus Etchegary and others like him are right to point fingers at Ottawa even if they have made their own mistakes, because they continue to mismanage the fishery. With much less fishermen left and the cod stocks recovered, the EI situation wouldn't be such a problem.

  • Paul
    February 23, 2012 - 06:26

    Funny to see Gus Etchegary & Jim Morgan in attendance. They seem to have all the answers now but were part of the problem back in the day when something could have really been done. Gus was head over one of the largest fishing companies back years ago when they were using screens in their nets. Just talk to some fishermen around the province and they will tell you abt Gus. And Jim Morgan was fisheries minister back in the 80's when changes should have started in the fishery. Too many plants opened at the time, and on into the 90's. Guess he was too busy getting re elected too. So for both Gus and Jim...take a look in the mirror before you place the fishery blames on other people. I respect Ryan Cleary for at least bringing the problems to a forefront. Its a tough topic with no easy fix.

  • Political watcher
    February 23, 2012 - 06:11

    There will be peace in the Middle East before there is any harmony in our fishery. One key factor is that the same union is trying to represent everybody and at times pitts one against the other. Sure we heard last week where the Union was ready to sell out one plant at the expense of another. I have no faith in the FFAW, all they are concrned about is collecting dues and keeping things hostile. The last thing they want is harmony; afterall, if all sides start to get along they will no ,longer be required.