You are here

President's Column - Spring 2015

Message from the President

I may be relatively new as President of the FFAW, but I’ve seen enough in my years here and especially firsthand as a harvester, to feel the frustration in having your industry managed by a federal government that understands very little about Newfoundland and Labrador.

The need for the town meetings, rallies and demonstrations in recent months leaves me a little torn.

On the one hand, I’m impressed, overjoyed, and reassured by the level of support the fisheries continues to receive in the province. This support reflects a reality – the fishery is still critically important to this province.

But these events also leave me saddened because we still need to have them. We still need to rally and lobby and argue for the most basic of premise – that those who live closest to our ocean resources should be the main beneficiaries those resources.

Why have we lived on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador for over 500 years?  Why do we continue to live in coastal Labrador?  Why do we continue to live on the Northern Peninsula?  Why do we continue to live in communities like Twillingate, Trout River, Fogo, Fortune, Harbour Breton, Old Perlican and Port aux Choix?  There may be a few different reasons, but the fishery is the common thread.

Those in Ottawa must do more to understand that our coastline was settled because of the fishery and that many of those who live in coastal communities are there because of fish resources.

I think we need to send a message to Ottawa: the fishery is the original mega-project in this province, and it is the only one that spreads to every nook and cranny of Newfoundland and Labrador. The fisheries mega project remains strong and it would be stronger if they stopped saddling us with ridiculous policies that kill communities.

The principle of adjacency is well recognized as a critical instrument in advancing the interests of local workers, community and local business growth based solely on the ownership and proximity of the resource. Most significantly, the Atlantic Accord is the umbrella document for the Canada-Newfoundland Benefits Agreement. It outlines employment priorities for NL workers and companies vying for contracts in the offshore oil industries. Without it, our province stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars to international contractors.

The Emera Maritime Link Benefits Agreement and the highly touted Alderon Kami Mine Benefits Agreement are two recently announced programs that are fundamentally structured to give first priority benefits to the citizens closest to the resource. The same should be crafted for the shrimp resource and all of our fisheries resources. This ensures a balanced approach, one that assists the distribution of the immense wealth created by utilization of provincial resources. 

This principle is even more entrenched and enshrined in fisheries management.

Atlantic Groundfish Management Plan in 1984 states “allocation of fisheries resources will take into account of adjacency to the resource, the relative dependency of coastal communities.”

The federal fisheries minister in 1997, Fred Mifflin, said that adjacency would guide future allocations in the northern shrimp fishery.

In Gander on March 4th over 400 people including FFAW members, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, leaders of provincial opposition parties, federal members of parliament, labour leaders, municipal leaders and business leaders were promoting adjacency and the importance of the fishery in our province.  The same day, a FFAW delegation made up of representatives of all shrimp fleet sectors met in Montreal on March 4 to deliver these messages to federal officials. 

These are messages that were delivered at other management meetings such as the advisory meetings relating to Halibut on the south coast of Newfoundland in 3PS.  The exact same message will be delivered at gulf groundfish meetings related to halibut and other species in 4R/3Pn.  In both cases relating to halibut, FFAW members have been actively campaigning for fair access to the adjacent resources.

The fishery is worth over one billion dollars to Newfoundland and Labrador.  But it can be worth more to our people and the economy.  The opportunity to make the right decisions lie with Fisheries Minister Gail Shea and your Union ensures these important issues are a focus for her and DFO officials.

To use the inshore shrimp fishery as an example, we have over 260 fishing enterprises, employing approximately 1,300 crew members and ten plants with over 1,500 processing workers.  This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

When faced with the facts, how can a decision be made to throw away thousands of jobs, force bankruptcies and destroy communities when they are the people who live closest to the resource and have depended upon the ocean for generations?

There are solutions that can be fair to all and uphold the principle of adjacency.  The solution lies in allowing the inshore fleet and adjacent special allocation holders to harvest the adjacent grounds in what we call Shrimp Fishing Area 6. This solution supports both adjacency and allows for a viable offshore fishery.  The solution is ensuring adjacent halibut harvesters have access to historical shares which allows people an opportunity to benefit from this healthy resource.

It’s not just about shrimp and halibut, it’s about having the right to responsibly harvest the resources off our shores.

Whether that is turbot, cod, shrimp, halibut or even sculpin.

Even though I’m torn by the need to rally, I’m reassured by every conversation I have about the value of our adjacent resources.  Those conversations have been in town hall meetings like March 4th in Gander and in every other nook and cranny of our province.  Newfoundlanders and Labradorians understand the need for our people to benefit from our natural resources. 

You all know value of the fishery to our coastal communities. We have to stand united for the principle of adjacency and we have to stand united for all of our coastal communities.