Letting fishermen sell their fish

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As an individual who grew up in the trap skiffs of a flourishing outport six decades ago — and one whose heart and soul today aches to see, in that same little village, all the closed up houses, broken down fences and fields where no children play — I am sending you what may be the first of a series of memos on what I view as possible  ways and means to save the inshore fishery and, in turn, our priceless fishing communities.

My concern and my question today is simply this — how can a fisherman fish if he has no one to buy his product?

The big lie in the fishery, which has been propagated by those whose insatiable greed and narcissism leads them to wish for absolute monopoly in fish processing, is that there are too many fish plants.

I concede that there may have been too many plants of the model which catered to the great offshore trawler fleets of the ’60s and ’70s, but today there are countless communities where fisherpeople have no opportunity to sell their product (other than crab) unless they are capable of bringing 40,000 pounds to the wharf at one time.

Here’s a personal example: last fall, we had our mackerel trap out, and only once did we succeed in landing a longliner load, sufficient to bring in a tractor trailer.

Numerous other times we turned several hundred to a few thousand pounds of mackerel or herring over the heads, because there is no multi-species fish plant or buyer in the Twillingate area.

Just  consider how we have regressed in this vital area of the fishery. When my father hauled his cod trap in the ’50s and ’60s, every pound of fish could be sold, either fresh to the local plant, or salted, dried and sold to the fish merchants, prevalent in most fishing areas.

Last fall, dozens of people set mackerel nets but could not sell their hundred or so pounds of fresh mackerel either fresh, smoked or salted because, in effect, the major fish merchants have persuaded the government to make such transactions illegal.

The solution is simple: bring back democracy to the fishery. Free enterprise and competition are the cornerstones of any democracy and both are sadly lacking in the fishery.

Just for example, if a family decides that they would like a small processing business where they smoke herring and mackerel for local, domestic or foreign markets, then they should be permitted in the same manner as I am permitted to open a family restaurant,  food catering business or gas station, for that matter.

Of course, governments’ involvement in such an operation should merely be one of safety inspections, as in any food establishment.

It was the lack of free enterprise, competition and democracy in the marketplace that eventually brought the great communist and socialist nations to their knees, and that same lack of opportunity for visionaries in the fishery has all but killed our precious outport villages.

Given the greed that has existed since West Country fish merchants first set foot on our island, it will take a courageous minister of fisheries to save out outport villages, so vital to the survival of our identity, our culture, our fishery and our tourism. But then again, most of the great achievements of the past have been spearheaded by a single individual with clarity of purpose, standing resolute against those who speak not for the common good.

I repeat: How can a fisherman fish, if government does not allow for buyers of his catch?


David Boyd writes from Twillingate.

Geographic location: Twillingate

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Recent comments

  • Casey
    February 20, 2013 - 12:25

    Mr. Business Man needs a reality check!

  • Mr. Business Man it is your beliefs that are traitorous.
    February 17, 2013 - 14:43

    Mr. Business Man if your moral compass on how you express yourself regarding how Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources should be utilized to only benefit other locations of Canada and the World's economies rather than Newfoundland and Labrador's economy, is truly your belief, then I cannot express myself in any other way than that your thinking is traitorous. Also you want to give away our fish because it is smelly, when the fish resource is a renewable resource, and coveted by the whole World and our Federal Government, in particular to conduct International Trade, then how elementary and traitorous is that belief of yours?.

    February 16, 2013 - 11:30

    Mr. Business Man said: """""Well I disagree that we should be utilizing Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources, with it being the primary beneficiary and the rest of Canada secondary. I see Ontario, Quebec and BC as being far more important than Newfoundland. That is my opinion as a Newfoundland citizen and taxpayer.""""" Well Mr. Business man in my estimation you are the most Corrupt and Selfish person that I have ever heard of, and I am sure if the rest of my fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were as aware of your corrupt postings on this site and also how how our raw natural resources are given away for others to prosper, I am sure all of them except for the perpetrators of the dirty deed of giving way and thus benefiting from the pilfering of our resources would be OUTRAGED! YOU SIR ARE A TRAITOR IF YOU ARE WHO YOU PROFESS TO BE!

    • a business man
      February 17, 2013 - 12:06

      Let me get this straight. I express a valid and legal opinion/position that you disagree with, so you call me a traitor? What did I say that makes me a traitor? I expressed my opinion as a citizen and voter. Whether you like it or not, I make an exponentially greater amount of money in ON/QC/BC than I do in Newfoundland, so from my point of view, those provinces are far more important to ME than is Newfoundland. I do what is best for me, not for anyone else. You stated that I am corrupt and selfish. I concede that I am selfish, but I take offense to being called corrupt. You have used the words corrupt and traitor to describe me, and all I have done is expressed my opinion and voted according to MY own personal interests. Nothing I have done supports the assertion that I am a traitor or that I am corrupt. Nothing that I have done is illegal. All I have done is expressed my rights. I expressed my right to own property in Canada by owning businesses in multiple province. I express my right to vote when I cast my ballot in Newfoundland to support my interests even though those interests are not in Newfoundland. Do you want to take away my right to vote because I vote based on nothing except my own interests? Do you want to take my vote away because I do not care about the province's best interests? Do you want to take my vote away because I am selfish? Honestly, I suspect that you do, and you know that you can't. As a result, you now result to childish name calling. It okay though. I still stand by my position, and the governments that I voted for is still in power.

  • Crazy Mr. Business Man, what would the iPhone economy be worth to Newfoundland and Labrador compared to the fish resource if we had control over the fish?
    February 15, 2013 - 13:31

    Excuse me Mr. Business Man, the Fish Resource is a renewable resource and it is coveted by the whole World. If the province of Newfoundland and Labrador had control over the fish resource within its boundaries without interference from Ottawa and the European Union it could be worth Billions to the province's economy. I doubt that the iPhone is worth more than a few Million to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's economy. By the way I am thinking about utilizing Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources, with it being the primary beneficiary and the rest of Canada secondary, that is the only way it should be, since our economy has suffered far too long with Canada andth e rest of the World benefiting as the primary beneficiaries..

    • a business man
      February 15, 2013 - 18:04

      Well I disagree that we should be utilizing Newfoundland and Labrador's natural resources, with it being the primary beneficiary and the rest of Canada secondary. I see Ontario, Quebec and BC as being far more important than Newfoundland. That is my opinion as a Newfoundland citizen and taxpayer. Clearly we disagree, and that is okay. That is the beauty of democracy. I am not looking out for the best interest of Newfoundland or the best interest of Canada. I am looking out for MY best interests. Furthermore, I argue, confidently, that the number of Newfoundlanders that values the iPhone more than they do the Newfoundland fishery is greater. I am not talking about who is right or wrong, but rather pointing that in sheer numbers, the iPhone touches more people's lives than does the fishery. If I had to choose between the iPhone and having a local fishery, I would choose the iPhone. If the number of people who agrees with me is large then number of people who disagree, then too bad for those who disagree. plain and simple.

  • Excess Greed by Politicians and Businessmen has to be stopped in its tracks in order for Newfoundland and Labrador to benefit from its natural resources.
    February 14, 2013 - 11:22

    Mr. Business Man, after second thought I know full well it is useless trying to combat the economic mentality of a person like you who want everything for himself without sharing, you said over and over in your posts that you want your family to have lots but you don't care about the fishermen and others. That is called EXCESS GREED and SELFISHNESS and you and your cohorts don't mind pilfering what belongs to others for your own benefit. Here in Newfoundland and Labrador we have seen that type of EXCESS GREED perpetrated on us forever by our politicians and by the the Merchants of Water Street. Also Ottawa eyed that weakness of awareness in the characters of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians since the inception of Canada in 1867 and they were successful in 1949 in getting in on Newfoundland and Labrador's wealth of resources and location for itself and others when they took over governance in 1949, before that they forced themselves on our fishing waters and on our shores to protect themselves and North America, in general during the Second World War. A War has to be waged against Excess Greed to stop it in its tracks. Why are we allowing our politicians and business men to pilfer our raw natural resources in the first place? Greed and control can only be stopped by the electorate, since it is an Evil Attribute of people and they will not curb it themselves. We see now what is happening in the Middle East with the dictators there, if what is occurring in Newfoundland and Labrador is allowed to go on any further, the same will happen here and wherever else the peoples natural resources are pilfered for the benefit of a few. The politicians know we now know what is going on, so why don't they put an end to it before we have to start a Revolution?

    • a busines man
      February 15, 2013 - 10:41

      Revolution? lol....don't make me laugh. There are a few thousand people, at best, who really stand to lose anything by allowing with the fishery being controlled by foreigners and corporations. The rest of us, AKA the majority, make our living in a way that has nothing to do with the fishery, so we will watch your revolution on the news. NOW, if restricting the ability of corporations to conduct fishery based trade were to reduce the supply of iPhones, now that would cause a revolution. I hope you don't think I am being sarcastic because I am not. The reality is that the fishery is only important to a small percentage of our population, whereas the iPhone is probably more important to many more people. For a revolution to be successful, there has to be a large number of people involved. Personally, I don't think that there are enough people who care about the fishery to staff a revolution. I certainly don't.

  • Mr. Boyd all of our voices need to be heard in Unison on the Corrupt Mentality of the Business Man and the way he wants our natural resources developed and distributed, where it only benefits him and his crony friends.
    February 13, 2013 - 09:37

    Mr. Boyd you write great pieces on the ills of the fishery, but we need pieces from you on how to combat the mentality of the Business Man and the politicians who have lent their ears to him and have structured development of our natural resources in a manner where only both of them prosper from the resources. Some Newfoundland and Labrador politicians are on their way to be Billionaires because of their corrupt minds and the way they have helped themselves to our natural resource base. The politicians who have a like mind of the Business man love his economic mentality because they cash in big on it, as well. Mr. Boyd I don't know if you are willing to share your thoughts on the Business Man, but they are needed, as well as every other Newfoundlander and Labradorian's opinion as we have to nip this type of economic mentality in the bud and do things right with development of our natural resources from here out so that everyone profits. OUR VOICES NEED TO BE HEARD IN UNISON!

    • a business man
      February 13, 2013 - 10:43

      Allow me to respond. First, please do combat my mentality because I am trying to spread it. Both views are permitted in a democracy, so it is really up to the majority to choose. Fortunately (for me), the fishery based communities have so few voters that the majority can disregard their existence. Secondly, I am an advocate for using our natural resources to benefit the majority. I am merely pointing out that the fishermen do not have to see any benefit for the majority to receive a benefit. A benefit for everyone EXCEPT the fishermen IS a benefit for the majority. I economic views are not intended to support my anyone except myself. After all, Canada is a democracy and we all have the right to advocate for our own personal interests.

  • Business Man, I will repeat it again, your Economic Mentality is very ego-centric
    February 13, 2013 - 09:09

    Business Man, you have a very SICK Economic Mentality that is centered around you and your business friends and the Politicians who are in control! What you are saying is let the rest of us eat seeds from the ground while you prosper from the people's natural resources. The Natural Resources of the land belong to everybody, not just a few elite who have control over how the resources are developed and who then collect the revenue from them. We, the ordinary people of the electorate have to take control.

    • a business man
      February 13, 2013 - 09:42

      Yes, I have political and business friends, but honestly, I do not care about them either. I would sell them for a quarter, like I would the fishery. My economic mentality is centered about me, myself, I, and my family. My business friends are associates, and sometimes they fail. It is not my problem. My interests are my problem. I am not saying that to let rest of you eat seeds from the ground while I prosper from the people's natural resources. I AM saying to let the Newfoundland Fishery workers eat seeds from the ground why EVERYONE ELSE in Canada benefits from cheaper goods from trade agreements, less EI abuse, and the creation of middle class office jobs. The resources of the land DO belong to everyone, not the elite and certainly not the people who live closest to the resource. The electorate has to take control of the fishery and its benefits, so that the majority can enjoy the benefits of having the natural resource. The majority is not served with local fish processing plants because having local fish processing gives us no benefit for the resources. Using the fish as "trade bait" at least allows us to get cheaper goods. I think you need to realize that the fishery workers are neither ordinary persons nor are they the majority. The fishery is a special interest group that gets most if not all of the benefit of OUR natural resource. THAT is what has to stop.

  • Business Man explains in all of his posts the reason why the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has not been able to move forward economically. Corruption abounds in the system.
    February 12, 2013 - 09:22

    Business Man said: "Well, in all fairness, as a taxpayer and voter, I simply do not want Newfoundland to have a functional fishery. As such, I support decisions that stand to destroy the fishery. That is just my opinion." Sir are you for real? What other rational citizen from any other rational location in the World that we deal with, would not want a Functional Industry operating from the most coveted Natural Renewable Resource in the World, namely FISH? You are functioning Sir with a hate for your fellow human beings and an enormous Love for yourself and those around you who reap all the profits from our natural resources at the expense of everyone else. You Sir have been honest about that and said so in your posts to The Telegram. We, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have to stop the raping of our natural resources for the benefit of everyone else but us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, except, of course, the Business Men type characters and their political friends.

    • a business man
      February 12, 2013 - 20:42

      Thank you for your question. I don't want Canada to have a fishery because I do not value the dirty smelly fishery jobs that it creates. I don't want those disgusting jobs for my family, my friends or my enemies. We are all better than that. I want the office jobs, the supply management, the administrative jobs that can come with overseeing a fish-based-business that entails fishermen from other countries that will work for less. My view is rational, and is based on my personal opinion that fish processing jobs are not good jobs. Furthermore, I oppose giving EI to seasonal workers, so I see the destruction of the fishery as a way to prevent seasonal fishery workers from accumulating the hours that they need to abuse EI on an annual basis. Without a way to qualify for EI, the seasonal workers will not abuse the EI fund that I, as an employer, am forced to pay into. I am entitled to my opinion, and above is my opinion. I hope I have answered your question. And yes, I understand and respect that you disagree, but please respect my opinion as a citizen, taxpayer and voter.

  • John
    February 11, 2013 - 18:05

    Free enterprise, and be allow to catch fish. We wouldn't need EI. Then some of you people would complain about the big trucks fish harvests have. I hope some of you people never have to bring up a family on EI.

  • Business Man you have a VERY SICK Economic Mentality. You and the Politicians should be carted off to jail.
    February 11, 2013 - 14:21

    To: Business Man.... You Sir have adopted a Sick Mentality towards who should benefit from the Peoples' Natural Resources. Economic Reform is badly needed and all Free Trade Agreements should firstly benefit the locations with the natural resources which are to be utilized to conduct such trade!!!!!

    February 11, 2013 - 10:31

    Migrant workers from all over Canada who traveled to the Canadian Fruit Orchards to pick the fruit and vegetables received Unemployment Insurance when they got back home, but the farmers, unlike the fishers of Newfoundland and Labrador did not have their produce stolen to pay for it. The fishers of Newfoundland and Labrador were the only workers who had their resource stolen and what makes it even worse, it was their Federal Government who did so to conduct International Trade to trade off the fruit, wheat and manufactured goods produced by the rest of Canada. SHAME ON YOU OTTAWA GOVERNMENT FOR PERPETRATING THE BIG MYTH AROUND UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE THAT HAS CAUSED SO MUCH GRIEF FOR NEWFOUNDLANDERS AND LABRADORIANS, WHILE LEAVING THE REST OF CANADIANS WHO COLLECTED UNEMPLOYMEN INSURANCE WITHOUT A SCAR.

  • joe
    February 11, 2013 - 09:32

    The people who comment about clinging to the past and EI have their future and their debt cemented in the non-renewable resource sector.We once had and still could have the world's greatest source of renewable protein at our doorstep-are we going to continue our blind, stupid meandering through the fog?

  • H Jefford
    February 10, 2013 - 17:23

    Years ago fishermen built their homes and fished in all the small bays or coves all around the island, that were rich in the abundance of fish, The people in those small fishing towns built fish plants or stages to process their fish then salt or pickle it. Those small fishing towns needed a collector for the fish to collect the fish and bring it to market so FPI was formed"Fishery Products International" Which collected the fish and marketed the fish,FPI had the Largest market in the world for fish products. Then FPI got into fishing and had factory trawlers built then the Co. that was formed to collect and sell the fishermen fish, started to compete with the fishermen that they were formed to help The fish plants were closed, Those factory trawlers could catch and process the fish by processing machines aboard those ships they don't need fish plants, when they sold FPI they sold the fishery Now they can ship unprocessed fish to Japan and other Countries, The small fishing towns all around the island will become Ghosts Towns as fishermen leave their homes looking for work on the main land of Canada The Co. FPI that was formed to collect and market the fishermen's fish took over the fishery FPI can send out factory trawlers that can catch and process the fish onboard with auto processing equipment with only a few people to operate the ship and processing equipment , When they sold FPI they sold the fishery, Places like Grand Bank Fish Plant is no longer needed those large fishing Co. that bought FPI bought the Fishery;

  • Christopher Chafe
    February 10, 2013 - 16:22

    While I read this I sense YET another Newfoundlander clinging to the PAST.

    • Eli
      February 11, 2013 - 14:51

      Tells me what you know or care about your past Christopher.

  • Fish Quotas were the enabler utilized by Ottawa to conduct International Trade
    February 10, 2013 - 11:39

    What most Newfoundlanders/Labradorians and Canadians are unaware of is that the Ottawa Government has been using the "FISH QUOTAS" for 40 years to trade off Wheat for Wheat Board and Manufactured Goods for the Canadian Manufacturing centers. The fish quotas are at such a critically low level at the moment due to pressure put on them by Ottawa that it had no other choice but to disband the Wheat Board, I will take guess, because where else would Ottawa find an enabler, like the fish quotas, to easily conduct trade with the rest of the World to placate the needs of the Wheat Board?

  • saelcove
    February 10, 2013 - 09:48

    Why not people got stamps cleaning up there property years ago

  • Delton McGrath
    February 10, 2013 - 06:47

    As an independent fisherman I fully support your views. If only this clarity of thought permeated the entire industry, then we would have a more functional fishery.

    • a business man
      February 11, 2013 - 17:32

      Well, in all fairness, as a taxpayer and voter, I simply do not want newfoundland to have a functional fishery. As such, I support decisions that stand to destroy the fishery. That is just my opinion.

  • mainland pete
    February 10, 2013 - 01:59

    Some people are just afraid of losing their livelihoods, their communities, their families and friends. Go figure...

  • Will Cole
    February 09, 2013 - 18:29

    The only reason the provincial government licensed so many fish plants was because it was a way to offload everyone in rural NL on a federally-funded welfare progam colloquially known as pogy. It also ended up corroding the work ethic of those who came to habitually depend on the dole. So now that the fish are all gone, the free market will inevitably resolve the issue of rural NL. Indeed, that's exactly what's happening right now.

    • a business man
      February 11, 2013 - 17:34

      Excellent! I would not have it any other way.

  • Delton McGrath
    February 09, 2013 - 17:35

    As an independent fisherman I fully support your views. If only this clarity of thought permeated the entire industry, then we would have a more functional fishery.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 09, 2013 - 17:00

    As a former federal public servant, I now recall the days (perhaps back in the 80s/90s) when the new catch phrase was public/private partnerships (before that government was in many respects more of an overseer and regulatory body keeping an eye on the private sector and making sure that the public interest was protected). Now government and the corporate sector is pretty much one and the same. Government (both federal and provincial) have become too close, too cosy with the business sector and essentially government has substituted the public interest with business interest,,,,,,,, Who then is looking out for the public interest (of which I include the small boat fishing and processing sector)? ------ The CNLOPB has become one with the oil industry........Muskrat Falls is another example....... Nalcor's revenue depends on the on-the-ground infrastructure that it has. The greater its infrastructure (dams, generation facilities, transmission lines, etc.), that is, the greater its "rate base" (which determines its profits), the greater its revenue, the larger the corporation, the more employees, the greater salary for CEO's, senior managers, etc. ------ Whether the fishery (or other), government policy has become one with big business. PERIOD. /////// The public interest, the community interest, is no longer a government priority ---- Government and business have become one.

    • Frank
      February 14, 2013 - 15:03

      Maurice, this is not a discussion on Muskrat Falls!

  • George
    February 09, 2013 - 15:38

    Mr. David Boyd, I like your rationale on this point. Small(er) ventures need an outlet and are possible around the island. Our own population live mainly on imported foods while our fish products are being shipped out. Given legitimacy for small 'on-the-wharf' operations, I would be there as a consumer buyer 4 to 5 days a week looking to eat fresh seafood. On that scale, the cod fishery could be open again. Fishermen would benefit from sales, diets would improve and the community could be 'alive' again. Keep your momentum going David, you have the support of more people than you could ever imagine.

  • david
    February 09, 2013 - 12:07

    We have fished here for 400 years....four hundred. years.......and yet fishermen are still debating how and where to sell their fish and for how much. After FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. This says all there is to be said about the Newfoundland fishery.

  • PHIL C.
    February 09, 2013 - 10:51


  • Casey
    February 09, 2013 - 10:50

    To Bagg...Get over yourself. NL is not the only province where people collect EI for seasonal work. Also, if NL fishermen don't catch the fish who will. Maybe Europeans or even the Chinese. Is that what you want? Change is fine as long it is realistic and not pushed on the people. NL fishermen deserve the right to harvest their own resource and make a decent living from it. The fishermen and the union need to pressure Ottawa about it's plans for a revitalized Cod Fishery.

    • a business man
      February 11, 2013 - 11:30

      Personally, I am okay with the Chineese and Europeans catching the fish. I honestly could care less who catches the fish. I am okay with Newfoundlanders NOT having the right to make a decent living from the fish, if it mean everyone else gets cheaper fish. I support cutting out the local fishermen as long as a greater number of people sees a net benefit.

  • W Bagg
    February 09, 2013 - 09:58

    The problem is how would the fisherman collect stamps then? I'm not gonna be able to issue stamps for buying a few pounds of smoked fish.

    • fred from brigus
      February 09, 2013 - 18:38

      Would you issue stamps for buying a few hundred pound of cabbages or potatoes ? I think not so why would you issue stamps for buying a few hundred pound of fish.

    • jeb
      February 11, 2013 - 07:38

      I don't think farmers receive "stamps", at least not as easily as fishermen.

  • saelcove
    February 09, 2013 - 09:36

    There is no one on the planet thats, s afraid of change as much as newfoundlanders

  • Ken Collis
    February 09, 2013 - 08:15

    The premier has said that fishemen must sink or swim on their own merits and abilities. To do this she must let fishers sell their catch to whoever will give the best price. If that means trucking it to Nova Scotia, so be it. If plant owners can ship unprocessed fish out, why can't fishers? Are they second class?