Owner-Operator and Fleet Separation Policies Must be Saved, says FFAW

March 13, 2012, 10:20 AM EST


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The FFAW/CAW is demanding the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans maintain status quo with its Owner/Operator and Fleet Separation policies after the release of a review paper on modernization was released by the department.

Fleet separation prevents a company from both catching and processing seafood, while the owner-operator policy requires the fishing license holder to catch the fish.

While the discussion paper makes no mention of policies known as owner-operator and fleet separation, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield has refused to say whether the policies will remain.

FFAW/CAW members are worried a change to these policies will allow big, possibly foreign companies to enter and dominate the inshore fishery decimating the current license holders who have carved a living for their families from the sea for decades in Newfoundland and Labrador.

FFAW/CAW President Earle McCurdy said the future of the under 89-foot fleet in Newfoundland and Labrador, is at high risk.

"There's a concerted effort to open the door to outright ownership of licenses by fish processors, or by anybody else for that matter.  They (DFO) want to actually uncouple the license from the fishing activity. The right to fish should be associated with the people who catch the fish," said McCurdy.

The removal of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies in BC resulted in an unmitigated disaster for the people who catch fish there. The result in New Zealand was also devastating with over 60 per cent of its fishing fleet today are from foreign countries. A ministerial inquiry into what transpired in the fishery is ongoing in that country.

McCurdy said when large companies buy licenses and quota they peddle it around to the highest bidder, often time at a price which is far beyond what they're worth.

"If you take fishing rights and wheel and deal them on Wall Street and when the people with the red suspenders who cause so much speculation in other sectors of the economy start peddling around fishing rights, then you can be sure that there's payback for that. In the case of the fishery it comes out of the hides of the people who catch fish. So, they either have very low wages for local people or it gets to the point whereby they can't get locals so they turn to temporary foreign workers," said McCurdy.

The review affects fisheries in all Atlantic Provinces. Nova Scotia's government has called on the federal government to explain whether it will maintain policies protecting inshore fisheries as it seeks to modernize Canada's commercial fisheries. The Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries Minister Darin King says he first wants input from all the players before taking a position.

A coalition of 33 fisheries groups from Atlantic Canada and Quebec, including the FFAW/CAW, released a 25-page response to DFO's modernization document.

In it, the group said "The department's initiative is a barely-veiled attack on the policies that protect self-employment, independent fishermen and a justification for hobbling even further Canada's dwindling fisheries science capability."

Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield warns change is coming and that the fishing industry needs to 'get with the times.'

Please help your FFAW/CAW brothers and sisters by signing and sending the letter below to Minister Ashfield.  The deadline is Wednesday, March 14.

Download the letter: http://www.ffaw.nf.ca/userfiles/files/Response%20to%20DFO%20Policy%20Review%20Form.pdf
Send it to: consultations@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

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