FISH-NL executive accuses DFO and FFAW of playing politics in fishery protest

Published on April 20, 2017

While the nearly two-dozen supporters who joined Richard Gillett (centre) at the road leading to the NAFC building Thursday morning were peaceful, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary patrol division officers were still called to the scene to assess the situation.

©Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Ryan Cleary says the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union are killing Richard Gillett with politics.

“This guy is a rock, but he’s hurting now and they’re playing with his life,” the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador president said of the organization’s vice-president, who is now eight days into a hunger strike while camped outside the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John’s.

Cleary was responding to a news release from the FFAW that he claims takes credit for the federal government’s decision to conduct a full assessment on northern cod stocks on an annual basis.

Among the two-dozen supporters who joined Richard Gillett (centre) at the road leading to the NAFC building Thursday morning was Lucas Wilkinson of Flatrock. The 10-year-old’s family has roots in Change Islands and felt it was important to show solidarity with Gillett because the fishery is an important part of his heritage. For his part, Gillett says he’s taking his stand in part to ensure Wilkinson’s generation has a sustainable fishery.
Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Cleary says MP Scott Simms, acting as a mediator for DFO, visited with Gillett on Tuesday evening. While Simms couldn’t commit to the fish harvester’s demand of a “complete independent review of all species,” Cleary says changing the cod assessment to an annual occurrence as opposed to once every three years was going to happen.
“We’ll put that on the table for you and you can have that as part of a deal to get you off this bank, to get you eating again,” Cleary recounts of the conversation between Simms and Gillett.

“Then the FFAW put out a response taking credit for it from their meeting with the feds. This is insane.”

The FFAW news release, titled “Consultation with FFAW results in DFO announcing full stock assessment for northern cod,” says the union is pleased DFO “has listened to harvesters via this meeting and in consultation with the 2+3KLNO committee, and is taking much needed action to better understand the growth of the northern cod stock.”

“What happened with that release, that’s more of a reason to have a review of the relationship between the DFO and the FFAW,” says Gillett, echoing another of his demands.

Cleary also suggested the FFAW shut down this year’s spring herring fishery in area 3L as punishment for Gillett’s involvement with FISH-NL.

On its Twitter account, the FFAW said the spring herring fishery was only closed because harvesters voted 100 per cent in favour of doing so.

“We suspect that the FFAW had a hand in that decision by stacking the meetings and the vote on whether or not there was a spring fishery,” says Cleary.

Gillett says despite the fact that 50 per cent of the quota is available in the spring, with the remaining 50 per cent available in the fall, the earlier season proves more fruitful and accounts for 70 per cent of his annual income because prices are generally higher and it takes less time to meet the quota.

“Are we going to manage the fishery on pounds again like we’ve always done, landing a lot of pounds for low money, or are we going to start changing our way and landing little fish for lots of money?” the 46-year-old father of three from Twillingate asks.

“The spring herring fishery this year is a prime example of mismanagement in DFO and politics.”

The start of Gillett’s eighth day alongside East White Hills Road saw him joined by more than two dozen supporters at times, some of whom placed fishing gear at the mouth of the NAFC access road to slow down traffic heading to the complex.

Protesters stopped employees who attempted to enter the road, but it was a moot point as DFO had already informed its staff of a delayed opening. By noon, however, a decision was made to close the building for the remainder of the day.

Gillett couldn’t say if there would be a similar turnout on Friday morning, but insisted he wouldn’t be going anywhere.

“If I’ve got to crawl out here so those people that work in that building that are affecting my livelihood can see me, I’m going to do it. I’ll ask someone to carry me out. I’m not coming off this hill.”

Twitter: kennoliver79