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MEDIA RELEASE: FFAW Calls for Government Action in Recognition of Moratorium Anniversary

June 29, 2022

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

In advance of the 30-year anniversary of the northern cod moratorium this coming weekend, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW-Unifor) is calling on federal and provincial governments to make the necessary changes needed to ensure the inshore fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador is operating to its full potential. In reflecting on the thirty years since the moratorium was first announced, it’s more important than ever to ensure the benefits of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery stays with the people of our province.

“In most ways, the fishery today is unrecognizable compared to how things were before the moratorium. Professionalization, diversification, and modernization have allowed Newfoundland and Labrador to become world-renowned for top quality, fresh seafood and harvesters have risen out of poverty and into the middle class,” says Keith Sullivan, President of the union representing the ten thousand inshore commercial fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador. “While we’ve come a long way from the days of frozen cod blocks, there are significant challenges facing the industry that must be addressed by our elected officials in provincial and federal levels of government,” Sullivan says.

Provincial issues surrounding fairness, competition, transparency, and corporate concentration remain key obstacles hurting coastal communities. Corporate control and insufficient capacity to handle current quotas is costing both harvesters and plant workers.

“It’s no secret that our province is in a financial crisis, yet there are many opportunities in the fishery have not been actualized. Ministers Bragg and Davis continue to protect companies and promote secrecy surrounding processing production and sales information in Newfoundland and Labrador, leaving harvesters with no avenue to sell their catch,” explains Sullivan.

On the federal level, fish harvesters are continually frustrated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ (DFO) refusal to give them a respected seat at the table. Incorporating harvesters as key stakeholders who hold intimate knowledge of historical and current stock patterns brings more meaningful discourse to science and management processes.

“For those that may not be aware, it was fishermen who first raised the alarm on the cod stock’s depletion in the years leading up to the moratorium, and it was government who dismissed them,” says Sullivan. “Despite those thirty years and all the progress that has been made, harvesters still do not have a valued seat at the table and DFO continues to ignore fish harvesters and their contributions.”

In the three decades since the moratorium, FFAW-Unifor has improved fisheries science by initiating dozens of surveys and other scientific projects – bringing quantifiable information from fish harvesters to the science assessment table.  While DFO has reduced its science capacity over the years, fish harvesters, through the FFAW, have invested greatly in building a robust science team equipped with a full-time fisheries scientist and other science support staff, allowing the organization to fill in some of the gaps left by the federal government.

“In some ways, I don’t believe government learned their lesson from the northern cod moratorium. DFO is still allowing draggers and factory freezers in areas where inshore harvesters are struggling, and these massive companies and foreign government crown corporations are buying up our province’s fishery. The value of our fishery should stay here with the people of our province. There are ample missed opportunities to provide good-paying, long-term employment to fish harvesters, plant workers and other fishery workers all over the province,” Sullivan says.

“The FFAW played a vital role in guiding the fishing industry through the traumatic period following the moratorium and we continue to remain focused on the important issues that affect our members day-to-day lives. We work on the front lines and behind the scenes each and every day to address issues at the federal and provincial levels, to make meaningful changes for workers in this province. It is certainly not an easy or smooth battle to fight, but it is one that I am proud to be a part of and hope to contribute to for the next thirty years,” concludes Sullivan.


For media inquiries, please contact Courtney Glode at or text/call 709-743-4445.