Fish harvesters raise industry concerns at Fish-NL meeting in Marystown

Colin Farrell
Published on December 2, 2016

Ryan Cleary was in Marystown last week for a FISH-NL meeting.

©Colin Farrell/ TC Media

Marystown, NL- Fishing quotas was just one of the concerns discussed during a Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) meeting held in Marystown Nov. 29.

Harvesters from around the Burin Peninsula had an opportunity to raise their concerns about the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union during a series of meetings held in the region last week.

Additional meetings were held in Bay L’Argent, Fortune, Lawn and Petite Forte.

Wayne Meade, who fishes out of Grand Bank, was one of the attendees at last weeks meeting in Marystown.

“I fished scallop on St. Pierre bank for a number of years and in 2006 they (FFAW) give away the middle (scallop) bed and the southern bed to the big offshore companies,” he said. “I held a license for that area for the last 25 years and overnight I had it took from (me), so there’s nothing fair about that.”

Meade said following that he removed the scallop gear from his vessel.

“I went at the hook and line fishery for a couple of years because we had a 10 per cent by catch of halibut, (then) in 2008 they decided to take the by catch of halibut from us,” he said.

Meade he it is time for a change in representation.

“The FFAW (have) been in there too long and they’re dishonest to the fisherman, they’ve done everything to bring us down, done everything to the 3PS fisherman to bring’em down — all Newfoundland not only 3PS,” he noted.

Meade added that he feels the FFAW are not representing the fisherman/

“They’re only there to benefit their own selves, they’re not there to help the fisherman at all,” he said.

Ryan Cleary, president of FISH-NL said the harvesters at the Marystown meeting are not alone in their feelings.

“We’ve heard these concerns here for a while,” he said. “The people in Garnish, for example, have been particularly vocal in terms of the lobster fishery and buddying-up.”

Cleary said other concerns FISH-NL is hearing in their travels has to do with the age of the people in the fishery.

“It’s so hard for people to get into the fishery,” he said. “It’s to hard for young people to get in and we’ve got an aging work force.”

Cleary said although that is controlled by the fish harvesters certification board, the union has to fight for the people they represent.

“The union has a responsibility when something is not working as a representative of fish harvesters to stand up, be counted and to change things so it does work,” he said.

Cleary noted harvesters have a lack of faith in the FFAW.

“They don’t trust their union, they’re not consulted by their union (and) the interests of fish harvesters are not put first and all the way down the list,” he said.

At the start of each meetings Cleary asked those in attendance if they trust their union.

“I can read peoples faces,” he said. “You can tell that they don’t, there’s a reason there is so much unrest in the fishery.”