I am responding to a letter to the editor by Derek Butler, the executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers, that appeared in The Telegram on March 6 (“What fisheries modernization really means”).
Mr. Butler stated, “no one will deny harvesters their right to fish.” Just recently, fish harvesters on an Ocean Choice International vessel were certainly denied their right to fish. This was a company-owned boat with a company-owned quota and a company that is a member of the Association of Seafood Producers.
In his letter, Mr. Butler suggested that by allowing companies to own quotas, all of a sudden, fishermen and plant workers will be able to get year-round employment. Most fisheries of today are seasonal. This was done to protect the fish stocks from past mistakes.
Since crab is our most profitable resource, I will explain the crab season. April 1 is usually the start of the crab season with the closing date around Aug. 1. This gives the fish harvesters approximately 16 weeks of employment. As most fish harvesters are aware, 100 per cent of the quota is always taken. How can we stretch 16 weeks of employment into 52 weeks?
Mr. Butler also stated, “The last time I checked, there were no processing plants in St. John’s.” Let me make you aware that there was a large company-owned plant with six 150-foot large trawlers in St. John’s. These vessels fished year-round with company-owned quotas. After 20 years of a moratorium on groundfish, I, as a fish harvester, am not interested in going back to that model.
Pay attention to the redfish and yellowtail flounder to see what happens to communities, plant workers and fishermen when companies get complete control of quotas.
Let me finish by saying that after 500 years, the little fisherperson and the little plant worker have survived in their rural communities. I guess the only real way to destroy them is for governments to take away their right to fish resources.
3L fish harvester