It’s only busi­ness and we want our fair share too

The Compass - - OPINION -

Dear edi­tor,

If Derek But­ler and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Seafood Pro­duc­ers in­ten­tions to an­ni­hi­late the in­shore fish­ery and its de­pen­dent com­mu­ni­ties were not well un­der­stood be­fore Ray John­son’s July ar­ti­cle on the mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing, it should be now.

Derek But­ler’s re­but­tal in the Aug. 7 edi­tion of The Tele­gram demon­strates the clear con­flict in the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple’s re­source through the govern­ment’s fish­ery re­newal strat­egy.

When we asked govern­ment why com­mu­ni­ties are not in­volved in de­ci­sions in the fish­ery through the MOU, But­ler replied: “ Why should they?”

But­ler said, “It’s our nickel in­vested … We, the in­dus­try par­tic­i­pants, de­serve to make bet­ter liveli­hoods from this in­dus­try. What is more, we ne­go­ti­ated and signed the MOU. We are par­tic­i­pat­ing ac­tively in all its ses­sions.”

What But­ler is stat­ing, is that he de­serves more right to the fish­ery and the de­ci­sion-mak­ing than com­mu­ni­ties, fish­er­men, and res­i­dents. What does he think the fish­er­men and the Fogo Is­land Co-op wanted?

That’s the prob­lem. The fish­ery, as But­ler sees it, be­longs to his or­ga­ni­za­tion be­cause of the power over pro­ces­sors in this prov­ince. Govern­ment is leav­ing out the largest stake­holder, the peo­ple.

We stated the pub­lic owns the right to be the pri­mary fi­nan­cial and so­cial ben­e­fi­ciary from the fish­ery, not Derek But­ler. The peo­ple should de­cide the faith of their re­sources and their com­mu­ni­ties, just as the peo­ple in New Brunswick de­cided who gets their power. The peo­ple own the as­sets, and the peo­ple are the govern­ment. We all know how t h a t turne d o u t for t h e New Brunswick govern­ment.

His in­ten­tions to come out on top, while com­mu­nity en­ter­prises go un­der, is very clear, re­quir­ing no in­sin­u­a­tion on our part. In fact, his state­ments prove our point on stake­holder rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and strengthen our request to govern­ment.

Our call to ac­tion is, “Com­mu­ni­ties must be in­volved. As cus­to­di­ans of the tan­gi­ble and in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural as­sets de­rived from these ad­ja­cent re­sources, they carry the largest risks in the in­dus­try — their sur­vival.”

But­ler’s ap­proach out­lines his tac­tics and how he han­dled the crab fish­ery this year — But­ler first, com­mu­ni­ties sec­ond. Stat­ing com­mu­ni­ty­based so­lu­tions needs a dose of real world, shows the merit of his quest for cor­po­rate prof­its, as a de­serv­ing fea­ture of the fish­ery. We have a long his­tory of mer­chants try­ing to rule our great re­source, our lives and our econ­omy.

Just a few months ago, it was But­ler who an­nounced the re­tal­i­a­tion against a com­mu­nity fish­ing en­ter­prise — the Fogo Is­land Co-op­er­a­tive. The co-op is a com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion that stepped up to the plate to pro­tect stake­hold­ers — the fish­er­men and plant work­ers liveli­hoods.

The fish­er­men and plant work­ers we heard from said they would not have had work this sea­son if they had sung to the But­ler Choir of Fish­ery Eco­nom­ics. But­ler tried to break the back­bone of our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

For ex­am­ple, the Fogo Is­land Coop and the Fogo Is­land model is world-renowned and a suc­cess­ful com­mu­nity ven­ture, born of ne­ces­sity, but fed by in­no­va­tion. Co-op­er­a­tives pro­vide real ex­am­ples of how fish­er­men and their com­mu­ni­ties can be much greater cus­to­di­ans over the nat­u­ral re­source and pro­vide plenty of em­ploy­ment.

But­ler’s sug­ges­tions of col­laps­ing the num­ber of boats, elim­i­nat­ing fish plants and re­duc­ing the num­ber of li­censes will im­prove the fish­ery. But for whom? It only ra­tio­nal­izes his quest to elim­i­nate com­pe­ti­tion and pave the way for his float­ing fish plants.

But­ler might teach his ver­sion of democ­racy at Me­mo­rial, but we are not all sheep, eas­ily led. And his self­procla­ma­tion of hav­ing saved our fish­ery and di­ver­si­fied our ground fish­ery to cre­ate a stronger and bet­ter New­found­land and Labrador is an eye-opener. I was not aware that we have a God among us in our fish­ery is­sues. Per­haps that is why it’s in a mess?

Our ad­vice, leave the fu­ture of ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador to the peo­ple who will live it. The next elec­tion is com­ing and with the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers still in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, we can prove that.

I won­der if Fish­eries Min­is­ter Clyde Jack­man is hang­ing his head low, re­al­iz­ing the mess But­ler is cre­at­ing by un­der­min­ing the en­tire MOU process?

If But­ler wants to talk about what he feels is owed to him in the in­dus­try, let’s talk about what he owes fish­er­men and this prov­ince. He rep­re­sents the MOU, but most fish­er­men don’t even know what the MOU is, let alone that their in­ter­ests are not be­ing served. So, he has al­ready failed the peo­ple of this prov­ince and our re­source man­age­ment.

Com­mu­ni­ties need to be at the MOU ta­ble, but if the ta­ble is too crowded, as Min­is­ter Jack­man says, re­move the ASP from their post and pro­vide com­mu­ni­ties and fish­er­men a chance to have their say in fish­ery re­newal strat­egy. The Fogo Is­land Coop cer­tainly de­serves a seat as a strong pro­ces­sor in the in­dus­try, as a com­mu­nity share­holder and com­pe­ti­tion for the But­ler Book of Fish­ery Busi­ness.

Don’t take this per­son­ally Derek, but us­ing your words — it’s only busi­ness and we want our fair share too.

Dean Pen­ton Com­mu­nity Link­ages, Por­tu­gal Cove-St. Philip’s

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