Port au Choix harvester Stella Mailman has told the Northern Pen that seven or eight representatives from the area, representing different fleets and fleet sizes, will be attending the meeting – herself, included.
She is hoping they will address the issues the harvesters were protesting and advocating for on April 18.
“The 4R lines, the adjacency, and talk about all the cuts to the fishery,” said Mailman. “All the things that was brought up during the protest will be put on the table.”
She feels having a meeting means they’re making some progress and hopes that those in authoritative positions in the fishery will not just be willing to talk with them, but with people like Richard Gillett, the harvester undertaking a hunger strike, in St. John’s.
“He’s fighting for the same thing we’re fighting for,” she said. “What’s good for him in there, is good for us here. And what’s good for us here, is good for them in there.”
The Northern Pen will follow up with reactions from the meeting after it is held.
Port au Choix, NL — Frustrations with recent cuts and the overall management of the fishery flamed up this morning in the parking lot of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Port au Choix.
Angry fisherpersons set fire to their gear in front of the offices in a move of desperation to draw attention to their grievances.
About 100 harvesters are attending the protest, coming from Sandy Cove to Parson’s Pond, and all communities in between. As of 11 a.m. (April 18), it was still underway.
“We are here today united,” said groundfish harvester, Stella Mailman, who was elected to be the spokesperson for the protest. “We are here for the shrimp fishermen, we are here for the under-40 footers, over-40 footers, little boats – we’re here for them all. We’re united, because everybody is hurting.”
The protestors had gathered about 10 truckloads of fishing gear – crab pots, lobster pots, drag nets – to set aflame.
“There is nothing left for them to catch, so the gear is useless to them,” said Mailman. “Might as well burn it and get a little bit of heat from it.”
The fire department had to be called in at one point to manage the situation, but a fire is still ongoing. Local RCMP officers are also standing by to monitor the protest.
According to Mailman, the protest has nonetheless thus far been peaceful.
Despite the attempt to command attention with the fiery display, Mailman feels there is no one present, representing DFO, any level of government, or Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), to answer questions.
“Nobody showed up, we have absolutely nobody to talk to,” she said. “We have no representation whatsoever, starting with our municipal government, our provincial government – I don’t even know if we elected (an MHA) here – and then we got nobody from the federal department. Then we pay out all kinds of money – or have in the past, we hope it’s coming to an end – to the FFAW. Where are they?”
Mailman expressed her frustration with what she feels is a lack of representation for harvesters.
“We got nobody to represent us, whatsoever,” she continued. “If we did, we wouldn’t have anybody here on this picket line today. We’d have our spokesperson from our provincial government or our federal government or our union doing the talking for us. Instead of that, we have to take matters into our hands to try to get recognized, to try to survive.”
Mailman later said she spoke with a representative of Gudie Hutchings, Long Range Mountains MP, via phone.
One of the things Mailman says harvesters want to see is the rules of adjacency applied for the fishery. They feel that vessels from away can take advantage of the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador waters.
They want this to stop.
“All we’re asking for is the 4R lines to be put back (boundaries to be re-instituted to keep out non-NL harvesters) and adjacency to the resources,” said Mailman. “Boats can come across from Quebec, Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick, come from where they like. And what do we do? We stand on the wharf and wave goodbye to them.”