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Letter to Members

November 5, 2019

For the past three years, Ryan Cleary and his group FISH-NL have spread misinformation concerning FFAW, our leadership and the work of our Union to represent our members. This week, Mr. Cleary’s comments in the media criticizing FFAW’s campaign to prevent oil and gas development on crab fishing grounds underscores the desperation of FISH-NL’s fledgling campaign to represent inshore harvesters.

In the final days of FISH-NL’s card drive, FFAW would like to remind fish harvesters of the strength and determination of our Union and our track record of success.

In the 2019 season, fish harvesters earned some of the highest incomes on record, with the value of the fishery spread across every coastal community in the province. These improved incomes are a direct result of the hard work of the FFAW negotiating team and hundreds of volunteer fish harvesters who serve on local committees and have negotiated substantial price increases in a variety of species this year.

Under FISH-NL’s plan for the fishery, our current system of harvester and committee-driven price negotiations would be scrapped, jeopardizing strong negotiated prices and contracts, allowing buyers to set the prices for snow crab, shrimp, lobster, cod, mackerel, and squid.

FISH-NL has said they will eliminate harvester-initiated snow crab and cod surveys. Without the vital data collected through these surveys, we would have no information from harvesters to incorporate into DFO science. For the snow crab fishery, this could mean the difference between pursuing an alternative to the current Precautionary Approach framework or being forced to accept DFO’s approach.

FFAW has always fought to amplify the voices of fish harvesters in fisheries management and science. By signing a FISH-NL card, harvesters risk throwing away the important progress we’ve made in favour of a group that has no real plan or resources to represent fish harvesters. The conjecture and conspiracy theories peddled by FISH-NL only serve to pit fish harvesters against one another and distract from the important work we must do to continue building a vibrant, sustainable inshore fishery.

FISH-NL’s campaign is a concern and we take it seriously. But it will not keep us from the important work that we are doing or force us to compromise our principles. We believe in a strong working class, in a strong fishery that pays harvesters good prices and plant workers good wages, we believe in health and safety, in pay equity, in empowering the worker and harvester through information and facts, and in having a seat and a strong knowledgeable voice at the decision-making table.

It is in following these principles that we’ve increased the standard of living for tens of thousands across the province and how we have redefined the rural middle class to include the fish harvester.

Our union remains committed to working with all of our members to address the challenges facing our industry. FFAW members have one of the strongest fisheries unions in the country, with the vast resources and expertise to successfully fight for our members and win major victories that improve the lives of people living and working in coastal communities. Let’s continue this work together.