‘They’re tak­ing our liv­ing from us’

Port aux Choix fish­er­man says hal­ibut tags are a union money grab

Nor'wester (Springdale) - - EDITORIAL - THE NORTH­ERN PEN

A fish­er­man in Port au Choix is protest­ing a Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) Union pol­icy he be­lieves is il­le­git­i­mate.

Dean Ol­frey re­cently caught three hal­ibut with­out pur­chas­ing the man­dated tags from the Fish­eries Sci­ence Stew­ard­ship and Sus­tain­abil­ity Board (FSSSB).

Ol­frey says it now ap­pears he will not be get­ting charged for this protest, due to what his lawyer calls “union in­ter­fer­ence.”

“The lawyer is say­ing I’ll win the case any­way. They haven’t charged me yet and it doesn’t seem like they’re go­ing to,” said Ol­frey. “This is just a big money grab for the union, that’s all.”

The FSSB had in­tro­duced the hal­ibut tags as part of its At­lantic Hal­ibut Sus­tain­abil­ity Plan for the 4R fish­ing re­gion.

But har­vesters out­side of New­found­land and Labrador, though fish­ing in the same re­gion, do not have to use the tags.

Ol­frey says he knew some­thing pe­cu­liar was afoot when the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) told him he had to get his con­di­tions for fish­ing hal­ibut di­rectly from FSSB’s sus­tain­abil­ity board.

“For any other li­censes I can go di­rectly to the DFO and get my con­di­tions for how I’m sup­posed to fish,” he said. “But this par­tic­u­lar one with the hal­ibut, I have to pay the union x num­ber of dol­lars to get my tags be­cause it’s com­ing from the Hal­ibut Sus­tain­abil­ity Board – that’s the FFAW’s re­source cen­tre of sci­ence.”

Con­ser­va­tion chal­lenges

The At­lantic Hal­ibut Sus­tain­abil­ity Plan was in­tro­duced in 2013 by the FSSSB. As stated in its of­fi­cial re­lease, the plan was put in place to ad­dress on­go­ing con­ser­va­tion chal­lenges with the At­lantic hal­ibut fish­ery.

Be­cause the FSSSB is an en­tity of the FFAW, and the DFO is not put­ting these same tag con­di­tions on har­vesters out­side of the prov­ince, Ol­frey feels the union is us­ing these hal­ibut tags not for sci­en­tific pur­poses, but as a way to get money from New­found­land and Labrador har­vesters.

This sen­ti­ment led to Ol­frey’s de­ci­sion to go with­out the tags and fish in protest.

“This is the only fish­ery I know in Canada where fish­er­men got to pay for their own sci­ence,” Ol­frey said. “It’s just another way for the union to get all the money for them­selves.”

FFAW Union rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the re­gion, Jason Spin­gle, says the FSSSB is an in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion and not un­der the di­rect ju­ris­dic­tion of the union.

“From what I un­der­stand, this is an arm’s-length or­ga­ni­za­tion,” said Spin­gle. “These tags are put in place for the fish­ery and har­vester’s ben­e­fit.”

But Ol­frey says when he sees other out-of-prov­ince har­vesters catch­ing hal­ibut with­out the tags and with larger quo­tas, it only adds in­sult to in­jury.

“We’ll pay for the sci­ence, and the other prov­inces will come and take the fish. There’s some­thing wrong with it,” he said.

Ol­frey is now in con­tact with Fed­er­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Sea Har­vesters (FISH-NL) pres­i­dent Ryan Cleary, and is in sup­port of a labour board vote on union representation.

Cleary says Ol­frey’s protest over the hal­ibut tag and the claim he will not be charged are proof the FFAW is no longer work­ing with the har­vesters’ well-be­ing at heart.

“Dean and FISH-NL look at this as proof that the FFAW uni­form has now gone from union to man­ager,” said Cleary.

Spin­gle says he will not com­ment on any le­gal as­pects of the is­sue, but with a par­tic­u­larly tough year for the fish­ery, he un­der­stands Ol­frey’s frus­tra­tion.

He says while the use of hal­ibut tags may not be in place for Que­bec and Mar­itime har­vesters in the 4R re­gion, Spin­gle ex­pects it will be­come pol­icy for some of these har­vesters in the near fu­ture.

While Ol­frey had one of his tag-less hal­ibut con­fis­cated, he is still wait­ing to hear if he will be fined or pe­nal­ized for his protest, which he hopes will shine a light on what he says is an injustice to New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans.

“You wouldn’t see in a com­mu­nist coun­try what’s go­ing on in New­found­land,” Ol­frey said. “The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment wants to get rid of ru­ral New­found­land, and they’ll do it by get­ting rid of the fish­er­men.

“They’re tak­ing our liv­ing from us.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

After learn­ing he could not pur­chase hal­ibut tags di­rectly from the De­part­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans, while other out-of-prov­ince har­vesters were catch­ing hal­ibut with­out these tags, Dean Ol­frey de­cided to go tag-less him­self and catch three hal­ibut in protest.

KYLE GREENHAM / THE NORTH­ERN PEN

Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers (FFAW) Union rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jason Spin­gle says the Fish­eries Sci­ence Stew­ard­ship and Sus­tain­abil­ity Board (FSSSB) is an in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion and not un­der the man­age­ment of the FFAW.

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