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MEDIA RELEASE: Fairness in Scheduling and the Targeted Elimination of the Small-Boat Fleet

June 9, 2023

Three weeks into the snow crab fishery and dozens of attempts made to work out a fair arrangement for fish harvesters, FFAW-Unifor is calling on the provincial government to better regulate processing companies, issue additional processing licenses, and open the province up to outside buyers immediately to allow inshore harvesters to sell their catch.

“Processing companies are engaging in unethical business behaviour to the targeted detriment of the small boat fleet in our province. The fishery may be open with a price agreement in place, but with no avenue to sell, harvesters are still in crisis,” says FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer Jason Spingle. “Our Union has made every effort this year to work out a fair proposal to ensure all fleets have a fair opportunity to participate in the fishery, but at every turn we’ve only been met with the same fish merchant-style tactics,” he says.

The fishery has now been operational for nearly three weeks, and yet only a small percentage of snow crab has been landed to date – at a smaller ratio over the same period of time in previous years. With the fishery expected to close in just a few short weeks, and even if season extensions are granted by DFO, the possibility of all quota being landed this year is becoming more and more unlikely. FFAW-Unifor conducted an online poll of license holders this week where nearly 70% stated they do not believe they will be given the opportunity to land their quotas this season.

“The Association of Seafood Producers and their member companies are brutalizing small boat harvesters. The Department of Labour must immediately intervene and we’re looking to speak to Minister Davis on how we can ensure fish harvesters are treated fairly this season. The way this industry is being destroyed by companies must end,” says FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty.

“Harvesters understand that we must have a paced fishery to ensure quality and capacity. However, companies are implementing harvesting schedules that are unfair to certain harvesters and fleets. These harvesters have nowhere else to sell their catch. And most concerningly, small boats are being forced to fish in unsafe conditions in a desperate bid to land whatever quota they are permitted by their buyer,” Spingle says. “This is a clear signal that something must be done to better regulate the processing industry. Companies cannot justify why some boats have over 200,000lbs landed already while others have only been permitted a single trip, or in some cases, none at all,” he adds.

Corporate concentration, foreign control and financial control of the inshore fleet is systematically wiping out the inshore fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This coordinated attack must be acknowledged and dealt with by provincial regulators. Companies that behave in bad faith, who look for ways to skirt around rules and regulations, whose only objective is to maximize profit to the detriment of everyone and everything else, must be held to account. As the Union has made clear on countless occasions: corporate concentration and control must be curtailed by provincial regulators, to ensure companies operate in good faith to the benefit of the people of our province,” Spingle says.

“We’re currently faced with a situation whereby a harvester may not get the opportunity to land even 10% of their quota.  If the processors in our province cannot process Newfoundland and Labrador crab in a fair and equitable fashion, then the province should open up to those processors in the Maritimes whose season has started to dwindle, and give our harvesters the ability to land crab, keep their families fed, and keep the NL economy alive,” Spingle says. “It’s very likely our Union will be taking this fight to the streets in the coming days unless we can ensure fairness for all of our members,” he concludes.