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Rural fishers and processors have been forgotten


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Dear Editor,

This letter was prompted by an item on CBC Fisheries broadcast and in the Telegram about Hodders Shellfish Inc. a small family owned business that was involved in the processing of sea urchins or as we call them (ores eggs) in a small community on the North East Coast of Nfld., that was shut down by the Provincial Dept. of Fisheries and by a Government that doesn’t understand or care about rural NL.

I returned to the fishery in 1976 and in that time there were a lot of family-owned fish plants all around the Island and up the Labrador Coast, these fish plants processed just about everything.  There were three in particular that I am familiar with, Dorman Roberts Ltd. in Triton purchased herring mostly and whatever was caught he would buy.  Mr. Robert’s plant eventually became one of the newest and most modern plants on the Island and today is owned by Ocean Choice International.

Eveleighs in Comfort Cove purchased different kinds of fish including seal and mussels, which would be canned; and S.T. Jones in Little Bay Islands their plant was processing crab, which was canned, very labour intensive. They also canned seal, cod liver, would buy cod roe which was pickled in barrels, also bought crab picked out of gillnets.

These small family-owned fish plants employed thousands of people not only from their own communities but from others, if fishermen could catch it, they could sell it.

Today we are in a different situation very few small family owned plants anymore, most are large corporations with no ties to the community leaving fishermen with very little and sometimes no options to sell some of their products because these plants are often too far away or don’t want to bother with small amounts of product.

In Jerry Hodder’s case the problem is this present Government that has failed rural NL are not interested in small fish plants and doesn’t care if fishermen can sell their product or not.

A prime example is a few years back when lobster buyers would not buy lobster because the price imposed on them was too high, Government would not allow outside buyers to come in and buy lobster something that they always did, because Government did not want processing jobs leaving the province, there are no processing jobs attached to lobster in this province.

Outside buyers are not allowed in to buy crab, regardless of how much more they are willing to pay.

Outside buyers are not allowed to come in and buy our cod, we have to sell it for .50 cents a pound which is less than we got 20 year ago and in lots of cases cannot even sell it.

For instance, in Placentia Bay area and South Coast fishermen could not even sell a pound and were stopped by this PC Government from getting an outside buyer; at the same time government granted OCI, a large corporation, a licence to export in raw form (no processing) all their redfish and most of their yellowttail flounder.

This, in my opinion, is allowing a large corporation to make a profit and at the same time starving the small boat operators which are the backbone of our fishery to death, or trying to drive them out of the fishery all together.

In the 11 years this government has been in power we have had more fisheries ministers than I can recall in my lifetime.  After Trevor Taylor and Tom Rideout left we had nobody in the PC caucus that had a clue how to run a fisheries department.

It’s too bad that Jerry Hoddor had to give up his dream of operating a plant processing sea urchins. This would be a worthwhile operation and would provide much needed employment in rural NL.

I don’t believe anything will change under this government; we have to have a change in government and get someone in the fisheries department who understands the fishery in NL and is also concerned about rural NL.

I am all for protecting jobs in NL but we do not have to do it on the backs of the fisher people.  We have to make sure that they are protected and be able to make a living.  Fish is the reason our forefathers came here.  Our fishery has to be protected; we will need it in a few short years when our oil is gone.

 

(Retired) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett

Green Bay South

wilfbartlett@hotmail.com

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