‘This was an ab­so­lute slap in the face’

Har­vesters feel left in the dark with Qalipu red­fish deal

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY KYLE GREENHAM

The re­cent deal be­tween Barry Group of Cos. and Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Na­tions is spark­ing strong crit­i­cism from FishNL.

Fish NL Pres­i­dent Ryan Cleary says har­vesters along the North­ern Penin­sula feel they should be first in line for any re­sources in the area – par­tic­u­larly when many are grap­pling with mas­sive quota cuts and eco­nomic un­cer­tainty.

“The in­shore har­vesters were out­raged,” Cleary said. “They’ve re­ally been hurt, and the red­fish re­turn­ing to the gulf has been a sign of hope for fish­er­men who are starv­ing for quota.

“They felt this was an ab­so­lute slap in the face.”

The deal was made with the Qalipu band based in Cor­ner Brook for red fish quo­tas that haven’t been caught for over two decades. With the biomass in ocean perch ex­pected to keep ris­ing ex­po­nen­tially, Bill Barry says it may be the big­gest stock re­cov­ery in Cana­dian his­tory.

The ma­jor crit­i­cism from FishNL is that the Qalipu Mi’kmaq do not have the same level of in­vest­ment, con­nec­tion or his­tory with the area that the in­shore har­vesters do, and they ought to be given top pri­or­ity on any re­open­ing of quo­tas. But in­stead, Cleary says, they are be­ing put to the back of the cue.

“The in­shore fish­er­men and their en­ter­prises are the eco­nomic en­gine of out­port and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties of New­found­land and Labrador,” he said. “First pri­or­ity and first ac­cess to all our fish needs to go to them.”

Port Saun­ders fish­er­man Boyd Lavers be­lieves that this was an un­der­handed deal, as many lo­cal har­vesters were kept out­side of the an­nounce­ment. He says it is un­fair to peo­ple like him­self who have spent years in­vest­ing and labour­ing in the in­dus­try.

“I’ve been wait­ing on that red­fish quota for two years,” Lavers said. “Yet here they are now bring­ing in a new group of fish­er­men, and here we are in­vested into our li­censes, our gear, and we’re with no quota. There’s some­thing not right there.

“I don’t want to come off as prej­u­dice, I just be­lieve in right and wrong.”

Lavers has in­vested $4 mil­lion into the fish­ery in the past few years. He says he would be only too happy to fish be­side mem­bers of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq, so long as they too had taken sim­i­lar fi­nan­cial ven­tures into the in­dus­try.

The ex­act quo­tas for red­fish along gulfs of the North­ern Penin­sula will not be de­ter­mined un­til 2019, but a meet­ing for har­vesters on the is­sue was set to take place in Hawkes Bay on Sun­day.

With a pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion in ground­fish, many har­vesters are al­ready gear­ing up to get their piece of the pie. But in this new tran­si­tion pe­riod for the fish­ery, Cleary says there are many ques­tions around price and quo­tas they have got to be dealt with be­fore fish­er­men can feel as­sured they will make a liv­ing.

“They have to fight for the quo­tas,” Cleary said. “If not there’s no fu­ture.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The re­cent an­nounce­ment of red­fish quo­tas be­tween Barry Group of Cos. and Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Na­tions has brought on strong crit­i­cism from Fish-NL. They feel the an­nounce­ment is leav­ing many har­vesters with long­time in­vest­ments in the fish­ery empty...

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