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FFAW walks out on Transport Canada meeting after fishing regulations force harvesters into non-compliance

March 16, 2017

HALIFAX – Transport Canada’s (TC) refusal to work with industry to develop an implementation plan to support new regulations forced 15 fishing organisations representing over 20,000 fish harvesters to walk out of an Atlantic Regional TC meeting today.

For more than a year, Industry has been requesting a comprehensive and timely implementation plan to assist the commercial fishing industry to effectively comply with the new Fishing Vessel Safety Regulations that will come into force in July 2017.  Today, TC made it clear that no such plan will be forthcoming.

Laura Ramsay, Liaison Officer, PEI Fishermen’s Association states: “The remaining timeline does not allow for fish harvesters to be properly informed, particularly in consideration that this requires such a massive investment of time, resources and financial commitment from harvesters.”

With less than 120 days until the coming into force date, Industry was told that over 260 TC inspectors are yet to be trained and the TC communication plan has yet to be finalized and delivered.  As a result, some 20,000 independent owner operators will be forced into non-compliance and bear the full liability, while TC proposes a “soft enforcement” approach to compliance.  Leonard Leblanc, President of Gulf NS Fishermen’s Coalition states, “This is a trap.  If someone has an accident, ‘soft enforcement’ will not be a defence of liability before a court of law.”

“Fish harvesters, both owner operators and crew members, deserve more from Transport Canada.  A more reasonable phase-in approach, allowing harvesters adequate time to comply, would be much more successful in gaining support from the industry and achieving our goal of improved safety,” says Keith Sullivan, President of FFAW-Unifor in Newfoundland and Labrador.

With the clock ticking, industry representatives are calling on the Minister to assist in finding a meaningful solution.  Melanie Sonnenberg, President of The Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation, states: ‘The Industry is fully supportive of safety.  After repeated attempts to engage Transport Canada in a comprehensive implementation strategy, the industry organisations are being forced to take other measures to protect the interest of their membership.”

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