‘Gone to our limits and fighting back’
Harvesters hit water to protest off of Port au Choix
Inshore crab and shrimp harvesters took to the water near Port au Choix to protest the handling of the fishery on the morning of May 8.
As many as nine crab boats from the province geared up and launched their boats in Crab Fishing Area 13. Shrimp boats were also on the water to protest quota cuts in Shrimp Fishing Area 6.
According to a new release from the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL), not all vessels set their crab gear.
As part of the protest, the boats surrounded a Canadian Coast Guard vessel, preventing it from moving for one or two hours, as per the estimate of one of the harvesters.
Dean Offrey of Port au Choix and Joseph Hynes of New Ferolle both operate crab enterprises that were amongst the crews on the water for the protest.
Adjacency is a big issue for them and the other harvesters who protested.
They say that dozens of boats from Quebec are permitted to fish in Area 13 off Port au Choix where crab is plentiful; meanwhile, most local harvesters have to go 30 miles away to Area 12, where they say there’s no crab.
“They (Quebec) got quotas for everything on our side. We got nothing over there and we got nothing over here. And they won’t give us anything,” says Hynes.
“They can use 150 pots and in three days they got their quota caught. We can use 250 pots and we wouldn’t catch ours in three years.”
Offrey says he set his gear once for two weeks, and when they hauled it up, they had just one crab.
They’re demanding access to Area 13 for the 4R fleet.
The harvesters are saying they don’t want Quebec to be barred from Area 13 – they just feel that they also deserve access to those waters.
Both Offrey and Hynes feel that the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAWUnifor) union isn’t doing enough to represent the interests of harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The Newfoundland government won’t let us choose what union we wants to represent us,” says Offrey. “We don’t want the FFAW representing us no more. They gave it all away.”
Offrey makes it clear that he endorses FISH-NL to represent harvesters.
“(The FFAW) are selling us out left and right,” says Hynes.
Per the FISH-NL news release, the protest concluded in the afternoon without further incident as local fishers retrieved their crab gear and returned to port.
But both Hynes and Offrey say this won’t be their final word.
“We’re a bunch of Newfoundland crab fishermen from the 4R zone and we’re tired of sitting back and watching people from other places come in and take our fishery away from us,” Hynes declared.
“We’re not satisfied with that anymore. We’re gone to our limits and we’re fighting back.”
The 4R crab and shrimp fleets surround the CCGS Sir William Alexander off of Port au Choix.