Splitting fish

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Sometimes it takes the wisdom of Solomon to solve fisheries crises in this province. And now, workers in Fortune are faced with a Solomon-like decision — split the baby in half or continue fighting for the whole shooting match.

In this case, most seem willing to choose the former.

Last week, the province cut a deal with Ocean Choice International (OCI) to keep its Fortune plant open. The company will employ 110 workers in Fortune in exchange for shipping 80 per cent of its yellowtail flounder quota overseas for processing.

The local workers and the town are behind the deal. The Fisheries, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union is not. The government has said it will not impose the deal unless the union agrees to come on board.

Union boss Earle McCurdy says the FFAW was invited to the table after the deal was struck. He’s been trying to insert new terms. On Monday, plant workers from the town came to St. John’s to confront their union leadership.

For the past couple of years, former fisheries minister Darin King has sparred frequently with McCurdy over the so-called restructuring of the provincial fishery. The union, King says, is obstructionist and is preventing an organized overhaul from taking place.

For fishermen, however, restructuring has come to mean something more one-sided: job losses, plant closures and dying communities.

It is a longstanding principle in Newfoundland that fish caught by local companies must be processed here. But the stalemate with OCI has shown no sign of breaking, and the province has finally agreed to cut its losses.

McCurdy is unwilling to accept this new reality.

It’s fine to stand on principle, but with no one willing to process the fish, principle doesn’t keep communities alive or food on the table.

The fact is, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the fishery has been propped up by supply side management rules far past any point that is sustainable. When we talk about restructuring, we are talking not so much about lateral changes as about capitulating to raw market forces. And that means a smaller fishery, with fewer protectionist rules.

Under King, the government has, to some extent, stopped resorting to euphemisms. Perhaps we should just do away with the term restructuring altogether.

As for McCurdy, he has to stop his duplicitous approach. With fishermen tugging from both sides of the issue, standing on outdated principles will get him nowhere. He needs to show leadership and wisdom, and stop trying to please everyone.

Organizations: OCI

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • p earle
    October 25, 2012 - 01:39

    The government does not need the unions ok to go ahead with an OCI constructed deal, it can just say ok and the deal is done. So why dont they do that? If they dont do it and say its because the union dont want it the Fortune people will blame Mccurdy, if the union ok's the deal and the government ok's it because its been oked by the union in 2 years when the stock has been destroyed and every company in the world will be hounding the government to have similar deals on all fish the government can say..but it was not us who oked this to start with it was the union! The government are incompident cowrards who will not take on their own responsible duty which is to govern and give leadership. Of course the governments behavior is one that clearly shows they have no grasp or understanding of the fisheries depth because they have no future plan for the Fishery. To give an example in medicine of whats going on here consider the following ...if a patient was seriously ill , say septicemia with a bacteral blood infection, with very serious symptoms and signs one of which would be a high fever, a quack would diagnose the problem as a fever and perscribe asprin , drink lots of juice and send the patient home. Where upon with in 24-36 hrs he would be dead from septic shock. This from a doctor who has no principals where as if he had any he would do a concerned investigation, by putting the patient in the hospital order blood tests and other tests (x-rays etc..) for an infection and immedately thereafter start iv antibiotics and perhaps ASA for the fever. In other words if the doctor has principal he will be concerned for the future well being of the patient, he will not just treat the fever he will instead first investigate then diagnose the disease for what it really is and treat it . Its a good thing that our government members and who ever wrote this article are not doctors because if they were they would be losing a lot of patients and the rest of us would not be able to find enough aspirn to relieve a mild headach. p earle

  • scott
    October 23, 2012 - 15:44

    Nice to see some educated comment coming to this obviously sensitive issue. I for one, stand whole heartedly behind Mr McCurdy. Newfoundlanders as a whole should stand up against companies like OCI (Ocean choice not our choice) and demand that whatever resources newfoundland has, are utilized to the benefit of all newfoundlanders and not corporate greed. There is far too much passive following with our resources. DO NOT give them away and have a few corporate identities flourish. why can't a fish plant operate successfully and the people of newfoundland afford to buy fish.

  • FR
    October 23, 2012 - 11:06

    It seems like OCI has an awful lot of power. Why?????

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 23, 2012 - 10:38

    Not one of The Telegram's best thought out editorials, for sure. At best, short-sighted and narrow in perspective.

  • Maggy Carter
    October 23, 2012 - 08:46

    A rather poorly constructed, one-sided editorial. It sets out the complexity of the local processing conundrum and acknowledges the difficulty of choosing between the two competing ends (hence Solomon). But then it goes on to portray one side and indeed one person, Earl McCurdy, as the chief culprit. The editorial acknowledges that McCurdy and the FFAW were only consulted after the deal was done. The outgoing minister Darin King had clearly sought to put his archenemy into the position of 'fall guy'. If McCurdy succumbed to the pressure from the local community and rubber stamped the deal - that made King look good. And if he did not (an outcome many in government no doubt privately support), then that was great too since it took King off the hook and put McCurdy on it. Despite this obvious set-up on King's part, the Telegram choose to hang the label 'duplicitous' on McCurdy - not on King. The Telegram chooses to ignore the larger issue - if government makes an exception to its long-standing policy of local processing and allows its friends at OCI to ship 80% of the yellowtail out of the country unprocessed, what does it say to the next company making that demand? As McCurdy pointed out, OCI was not even prepared to commit to a locally flagged and locally manned vessel to harvest those fish. The bottom line is that McCurdy might not always be right, but he is clearly acting in a manner in which the majority of his members approve - otherwise, he wouldn't be the head of the FFAW. Can the same be said of King after his one year stint in a portfolio he knows very little about? It will be interesting to see whether his replacement - Dalley - will choose to take a less caustic, more consensual and reasoned approach in dealing with McCurdy and the FFAW. In the meantime you have to wonder who wrote this particular editorial (probably not Wangersky) and why.

    • Eli
      October 23, 2012 - 12:17

      I agree McCurdy might be acting in a manner the majority of his members approve. But face it, the majority of his members will never get employment like that handed to the 110 workers on a silver platter by OCI in Fortune. Similar commitments were made by OCI at Marystown, turned down flat by the union, and the rest is history as they say.

  • Farmer Joe
    October 23, 2012 - 06:53

    Some people would sell the calf for a steak..