A fisheries MOU, but for whom?
Members of the Community Linkages were pleased to see the memorandum of understanding ( MOU) between the provincial government, the Fish Food and Allied Workers’ (FFAW) and the Association of Seafood Producers ( ASP), but many people have expressed concerns, both publicly and privately, to our committee, that communities are not involved in the process as stakeholders.
Our committee is echoing these concerns today.
Rural needs are key
Our province’s rural communities have a heavy economic and social reliance on the fishery, and therefore have a direct interest in the outcome of this restructuring process.
Rural communities represent the largest stakeholders in the entire fishery industry, yet they are being forgotten and ignored.
The minister’s MOU news release on July 15 makes it clear that corporate interests are receiving the most attention in the fishing renewal strategy.
When our organization requested that the fishery strategy incorporate all stakeholders, the minister replied that the MOU is well represented and rationalization is key to the success of a restructuring proposal to the federal government.
So, the question is, how did our government come to the conclusion it should exclude consultations with the people who will see the greatest impact of change, in favour of the federal government, the FFAW and private corporation participation?
Would our government like for us to assume that the members of the fishery renewal strategy are making the policies and decisions with our best interests a priority in their agenda? We surely think not! For example, after dismissing the Fogo Island Co-op strategy — “communities and stakeholders first” — the ASP’s Derek Butler still sits at the MOU table. This contradicts the minister’s hope in the MOU.
A strong trend globally is in developing community-based fishery agreements and co-operative community strategies.
ACOA describes cooperatives as self-sufficient enterprises that are run like businesses by people associating together to achieve common socio-economic goals, producing goods and services in the market economy.
The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans also states that they encourage the participation of non-governmental organizations in sessions of fisheries and field projects as an important source of information, especially for small-scale fishing communities.
They claim it brings detailed knowledge of local fishing practices, political structures and social motivation. Community Linkages feel that the provincial government should follow this example.
Yet our province is neglecting community stakeholders in the development of such initiatives.
Furthermore, we feel that keeping Derek Butler and his association in the process has undermined the legitimacy and overall intent of the MOU process.
It’s time our government reviewed its endorsement of private stakeholders in the MOU process. FFAW members should also ask themselves some serious questions about their future in the fisheries, especially in regards to rationalization and the future of their livelihoods aboard floating fish plants.
Time for real representation
Our province needs a fisheries council to prevent the joint approach of government and private industry determining the faith of our communities and economy.
It should be mandatory that the voices of the public, fishery workers, communities and stakeholders be part of the vision and success of our fisheries future.
We are proposing a consortium among interested parties to form a citizens’ council on fisheries to develop community-based solutions for our fisheries and to foster our social, cultural and economic sustainability and reliance on this industry.
The council would be representative of nongovernmental organizations, individual stakeholders, rural communities and government.
The purpose would be to promote a community-supported fisheries plan through public consultations and dialogues with communities affected by fisheries and ocean resource policies.
This would help ensure and promote strategic initiatives that focus on community development, to ensure that the broader fishing community has an accurate and clear understanding of the issues. It will allow communities to speak and make informed decisions regarding fishing and community interests in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Both levels of government need to acknowledge that our fishing industries are community assets, not corporate resources, and we look to government for leadership in turning the tide to more sustainable and locally managed fisheries.
I encourage you to write your MHA, the minister of fisheries and the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador to object to the MOU process in its current structure.
Ray Johnson is the chairman of the Community Linkages Committee. He can be reached at 709-584-3624, or by e-maiil at makeandbreak@ hotmail. com. Also visit the CLC website www.clccnl.ca
Ray Johnson is the chairman of the Community Linkages Committee.