‘Gone to our lim­its and fight­ing back’

Har­vesters hit wa­ter to protest off of Port au Choix

Northern Pen - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN ROBERTS PORT AU CHOIX, NL

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.”

PHOTO SUB­MIT­TED BY JOSEPH HYNES

The 4R crab and shrimp fleets sur­round the CCGS Sir Wil­liam Alexan­der off of Port au Choix.

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