Letter: DFO has an obligation to fishers

Published on April 18, 2017

The fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador is in turmoil and I wish to inform the public as to the reasons why.

I am not taking sides with FISH-NL vs. the FFAW — this is a distinctly different matter that involves the right as to who represents fishers in collective bargaining. This is a matter of provincial jurisdiction that has nothing to do with fisheries management and DFO — a federal government responsibility.

The Department of Fisheries and Ocean is denying the fishers their right to be consulted, and DFO has delegated its responsibility to the FFAW. The FFAW is a union constituted to represent fishers and plant workers for the purpose of collective bargaining. DFO and the minister are not fulfilling their mandate with respect to consulting the fishers and managing the fishery in a transparent and open public manner. This is not the way the fishery is managed in any other province of Canada.  

I know from my vast experience in this industry how the industry is structured. As past vice-chair of the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC), we had a mandate from the minister to consult widely in Atlantic Canada on issues related to resource conservation. The FRCC went to great lengths to consult broadly with stakeholders and the public. The FFAW was very opposed to open public consultation because it sought to control the fishery and resource management decisions. Politically they have assumed the role but it is not serving the fishers, nor the public in N.L. that DFO is not fulfilling its mandate.

For example, each of the individual fleets in Nova Scotia is consulted directly by DFO for each species such as lobster, groundfish, large pelagics, etc. In N.L., DFO does not consult fishers, it consults only the FFAW. This is wrong, and fishers and their representatives are being denied their rights as licence holders. They should not have to beat down doors and go on hunger strikes to be recognized and consulted by DFO.

 

Gabe Gregory
Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s