Fishermen need more respect
The fisheries has been in the news lately, mainly because of the MOU report stating that the fisheries should be downsized by eliminating fishermen and fish plants. There is also the misconception that the fisheries is a last resort, which means that if people in rural areas are unable to get a good job they would go fishing.
Fishing is an honorable job, the same as farming, mining, construction, forestry, etc. All these industries have their ups and downs. I know people in all industries who have done very well, while others have struggled to make a living.
I myself fished with my grandfather as a boy. At age 17 I moved to Deer Lake to get enough money to get a boat. I worked at electrical work, construction, cutting pulp wood, operating a saw mill, driving a skidder, carpenter work, driving a taxi and for six years owned and operated a very successful building construction company.
After 23 years in Deer Lake, I finally had enough money to buy a boat. In 1976 I gave up my business in Deer Lake, bought a 60-foot longliner, and moved to Brighton, where I fished until the moratorium.
I went fishing not because it was a job of last resort but because I wanted to return to my roots and try another business and as in all other industries there were years when fishing I had good ones and bad ones. When I started fishing, you had very few regulations but today you are regulated to death.
At the same time that our provincial government, some of our fish processors and the fisheries union are trying to downsize our inshore fisheries, we are allowing foreign countries to rape what few fish that is left around the Grand Banks.
We never did have a moratorium on the fisheries, just a moratorium on our fishermen. If these foreign fishing ships had been driven from our waters when a moratorium was called, we probably would not be having a discussion on downsizing the inshore fishery now. I believe we would have a much healthier fishery and a more prosperous rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
There are a lot of people in the fishery who are not into it because of last resort. They are like myself; they are in it because they wanted to and many could have done anything that they wanted to with their life because they are very intelligent people. Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions and many are lost to the ocean each year.
We are facing a shortage of food in this world because of the bulging population and our ability to destroy our oceans and our farm lands. There are two types of people who are supplying our foods — fishermen and farmers — and both have to fight the elements of the weather.
So let’s show them a little more respect for what they do. Wilfred Bartlett