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