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LETTER: Newfoundland and Labrador's processors fabricate excuses for illegal cod lockout

FFAW-Unifor members responded to what they called an illegal lockout by processing companies by holding a demonstration in Old Perlican on Monday. In addition, fish harvesters were at the waterfront in St. John’s offering free cod to the public rather than let the product go to waste, as there are no companies buying their product at this time. St. John’s downtown resident Thomas MacMillan took home two bags of fish being handed out by Ronnie Alcott (left) of St. John’s and Jim Chidley of Renews.
FFAW-Unifor members responded to what they called an illegal lockout by processing companies by holding a demonstration in Old Perlican on Monday. In addition, fish harvesters were at the waterfront in St. John’s offering free cod to the public rather than let the product go to waste, as there are no companies buying their product at this time. St. John’s downtown resident Thomas MacMillan took home two bags of fish being handed out by Ronnie Alcott (left) of St. John’s and Jim Chidley of Renews. - Sam McNeish

Protests were held earlier this week as a result of the Association of Seafood Producers’ (ASP) co-ordinated effort to lock out harvesters by refusing to buy cod.

ASP has asserted that a “postponement” of the caplin fishery resulted in plants being unable to accept cod due to caplin landings.

This is categorically false.

As harvesters know, caplin does not arrive to all bays at the same time.

Various regions are opened for the caplin fishery when the caplin arrives in those areas. Opening dates are determined in consultation with both harvesters and processors on a bay-by-bay basis.

At this point in the season, the caplin fishery is closed in many areas and the volumes moving through plants for processing are relatively small.

Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove accepts more cod than any company in our province and this plant does not process caplin.

Despite accepting millions of dollars in government assistance on new plant equipment, it prefers to process cod frozen at sea rather than buying fish from inshore harvesters whose relatives work in the Icewater plant.

Processing plants are not busy with caplin.

Processing plants are barely operating.

Royal Greenland (Quin-Sea) has very little caplin this week as the caplin fishery in their area is closed. At the same time, workers at Ocean Choice International (OCI) in Bonavista are inquiring about income improvement projects for this year because they don’t expect to get enough work to qualify for adequate employment insurance benefits.

Workers in Comfort Cove averaged a total of eight hours from Sunday to Wednesday, and at OCI in Triton they average was five hours from Sunday to Tuesday.

To put it in perspective, caplin landings in July ranged from seven million to 10 million pounds per week, while processors also accepted millions of pounds of crab, turbot and cod from area 3Ps.

The week of Aug. 2-6, four million pounds of caplin were landed, and the week prior to the 3KL cod fishery opening just 2.5 million pounds of caplin were landed, with virtually no other species landed.

To be clear, the real issue here is a co-ordinated effort by processing companies to supress the inshore cod fishery for their own greed and self-interest.

Large companies would love nothing more than to prevent the inshore fishery from building capacity to harvest the promised first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod. The goal of these corporations is to step in to fish it themselves once the stock has grown.

We will not allow this to happen.

More can be done to ensure fish harvesters can sell their catch at a fair price.

Fish this time of year is abundant and the quality is good.

In addition to requesting access for outside buyers, our union also requested the issuance of new buyers’ licences within our province to address the current near-monopoly within ASP. FFAW-Unifor will continue to pursue all available options to prevent the actions of processing companies from affecting the livelihood and future of FFAW-Unifor members and of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

David Decker,
FFAW-Unifor secretary-treasurer


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