Key poli­cies need to go fur­ther: fish­er­men

Lo­cal union, na­tional fed­er­a­tion wel­come min­is­ter’s an­nounce­ment on owner-op­er­a­tor pol­icy

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY GLEN WHIF­FEN SALTWIRE NET­WORK

If the Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans (DFO) wants to pro­tect the owner-op­er­a­tor and fleet-sep­a­ra­tion poli­cies, it’s go­ing to have to do a lit­tle more than amend the Fish­eries Act to en­shrine the poli­cies in law, some fish­er­men say.

The poli­cies were de­signed to pre­serve the in­de­pen­dence of the in­shore fish­ery: the owner­op­er­a­tor pol­icy was meant to en­sure li­cences didn’t end up be­ing con­trolled by a few, and the fleet-sep­a­ra­tion pol­icy pro­hibits fish pro­ces­sors or other cor­po­rate in­ter­ests from own­ing or con­trol­ling in­shore fish­ing li­cences.

Fed­eral Fish­eries Min­is­ter Do­minic LeBlanc an­nounced Tues­day in Nova Sco­tia the amend­ments would al­low the min­is­ter of the depart­ment to cre­ate reg­u­la­tions un­der law to pro­hibit a fish­er­man from us­ing a li­cence to en­ter a con­trol­ling ar­range­ment with a buyer or fish pro­cess­ing com­pany.

Richard Gil­lett, how­ever, an in­shore fish­er­man from Twill­ingate who car­ried out an 11-day hunger strike in April out­side DFO head­quar­ters in St. John’s to protest what he claimed was fish­eries mis­man­age­ment, said the state­ment by LeBlanc Tues­day was only “lip-ser­vice.”

He said that in 2007, DFO gave fish­er­men seven years to get out of con­trol­ling agree­ments. A con­trol­ling agree­ment is one be­tween a fish­ing li­cence holder and a com­pany that per­mits the com­pany to con­trol or in­flu­ence the li­cence holder’s de­ci­sions sur­round­ing the li­cence, in­clud­ing where to sell the catch and if it can be trans­ferred or sold.

Af­ter 2014, Gil­lett said, con­trol­ling agree­ments were il­le­gal.

“To get around it, (a com­pany and fish­er­man) changed it from a con­trol­ling agree­ment to a fi­nan­cial agree­ment,” Gil­lett said. “(The pro­ces­sor) fronts the money for the li­cence and you get the li­cence in your name only, but it’s a fi­nan­cial agree­ment which is per­fectly le­gal.

“If they are go­ing to wipe out these li­cences from these com­pa­nies they are go­ing to have to stop these fi­nan­cial agree­ments.”

In his speech Wed­nes­day, LeBlanc said he was aware the poli­cies will not com­pletely elim­i­nate the is­sue of third par­ties try­ing to as­sert con­trol over the in­shore fish­eries.

“Fish­eries pol­icy is no dif­fer­ent than any other pol­icy area — when there are rules, there will be peo­ple try­ing to fig­ure out how to cir­cum­vent them,” he said.

The Fish, Food and Al­lied Work­ers’ union (FFAW-Uni­for) said LeBlanc’s an­nounce­ment came af­ter calls from fish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions across Canada for DFO to keep fish­ing li­cences in the hands of those who do the fish­ing and to take con­crete steps to en­force the poli­cies.

FFAW pres­i­dent Keith Sul­li­van said the amend­ments to the Fish­eries Act would help pro­tect an in­de­pen­dent owner­op­er­a­tor fish­ery.

Some fish­er­men on the wharf in and around the St. John’s area Wed­nes­day said they were doubt­ful the amend­ments would be enough to en­sure the in­de­pen­dence of the in­shore fish­ery.

One fish­er­man at Prossers Rock small boat basin in St. John’s har­bour, who did not give his name, said he thinks it might al­ready be too late.

“Many fish­er­men are owned by the pro­ces­sors,” he said. “If it keeps go­ing, the real in­de­pen­dent fellers won’t mat­ter any­way.”

The Cana­dian In­de­pen­dent Fish Har­vester’s Fed­er­a­tion (CIFHF), whose meet­ing LeBlanc was ad­dress­ing when he made the state­ment, said they wel­comed the an­nounce­ment. The group said it will work with DFO staff to en­sure en­force­ment and pro­tec­tion of the owner-op­er­a­tor fish­ery in Canada.

GLEN WHIF­FEN/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Fish­ing boats at St. John’s har­bour Wed­nes­day. Many fish­er­men are doubt­ful owner-op­er­a­tor and fleet sep­a­ra­tion poli­cies can be en­forced enough to be ef­fec­tive.

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