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MEDIA RELEASE: FFAW-Unifor Meets With Federal NL Caucus

February 23, 2023

February 23, 2023

ST. JOHN’S, NL – FFAW-Unifor met with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Federal Liberal Caucus this afternoon to call for commitments on key issues affecting fish harvesters and plant workers in the province. The Union representing 14,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including over 10,000 professional fish harvesters, says it’s time for our federal MPs to step-up when it comes to protecting the people and economy of our province and are asking for clear commitments on northern, gulf and south coast cod, mackerel, redfish, seals, and important federal policies affecting the inshore fishery. The Union has also asked for desperately needed federal support when it comes to accurate science assessments of important commercial species as a result of DFO repeatedly dropping the ball on both surveys and assessments.

“We’re looking for very clear commitments on a number of key issues from our federal MPs. We’re talking about decisions that could make or break rural and coastal regions of our province, and we need the support of our Newfoundland and Labrador MPs. Ensuring high-speed internet and other basic services is a great endeavour, but if our federal government doesn’t make some drastic changes there will be no people left to use that internet,” warns FFAW-Unifor President Greg Pretty.

Specifically, FFAW-Unifor is requesting:

  1. An increase to the northern (2J3KL) cod quota in 2023. A modest increase would have no impact on the trajectory of the stock but would have enormous benefits to fish harvesters and plant workers. Last year’s quota was fully taken well under the expected timelines and current science, along with comparative fisheries in other regions, support an increase from 0.02% to 0.04%. This is a very reasonable increase when considering the health of the stock.
  2. Status quota removals for south coast (3Ps Cod). Specifically, an F of 0.07 which meets fish stock provisions for rebuilding and would be status quo removal.
  3. A stewardship/index Gulf cod fishery to collect scientific assessment information and maintain the local connection to the important historical fishery.
  4. A reopening of the Atlantic Mackerel fishery. FFAW-Unifor has worked with fish harvesters and our internal science department to call attention to changing patterns in the Atlantic mackerel fishery for nearly 10 years. This includes undertaking various surveys and sampling projects to build evidence suggesting mackerel spawn in areas other than what DFO Science asserts. The fishery must be reopened in 2023.
  5. Primary and significant allocation of Unit 1 redfish allocated to inshore and Indigenous groups outside of experimental fishery limitations, in support of a viable commercial fishery. Offshore companies are vying for majority control of the emerging redfish fishery and threaten coastal sustainability, especially when considering the current economic peril of the 4R shrimp fleet. Priority access must be given to those who are adjacent to the resource. Extensive work has already been undertaken by FFAW-Unifor to prevent any unintended negative effects on the Atlantic halibut fishery.
  6. Increased accountability in the science of key commercial species. The federal government has put all its eggs in one RV Survey basket, and it’s resulted in alarming gaps in information for several key commercial species. Moreover, because of these gaps in data, DFO chose to cancel assessments altogether, leading to even greater inadequacies in the scientific discourse. Fish harvesters have undertaken collaborative science surveys on most species, and it’s clear that the federal government should invest in more of these collaborative opportunities to address government shortcomings. Northern cod and northern shrimp assessments should also proceed this year, regardless of inadequacies in RV survey data.
  7. That the federal government put a bigger push on understanding the effects of seal predation and how to address it. Inadequacy in seal science has led to concerns over natural mortality in several key commercial species such as 3Ps, Gulf, and northern cod. It’s absolutely imperative that more be done before the ecosystem is irreparably damaged.
  8. A commitment to review the Shrimp Fishing Area (SFA) 6 Limit Reference Point (LRP) in 2023. The review of the LRP cannot wait until 2024. The NL shrimp fleet is a mere shell of what it once was, but we can maintain minimum levels of the fishery to assist in a transition for this fleet. Inconsistencies with the LRP have been raised by FFAW-Unifor since 2014.
  9. Dismissal of the 30-Day Registration Policy in Newfoundland and Labrador, with reinstatement of the 30-day Grace Period to the 12-month rule. The instatement of such a policy would directly contravene Owner-Operator legislation and threaten the future of the inshore fleet, and by extension coastal communities. The Inshore Council is the democratically elected governing body for over 10,000 professional fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador, and their unanimous support for this and other key policy items must be given due consideration by federal decision-makers.

“Coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador still very much rely on the inshore fishery as the primary economic contributor to their perseverance. Protecting inshore owner-operators and their enterprises is absolutely essential to protecting onshore processing and other related fishery jobs, to protecting municipal tax bases, and to protecting vibrant and sustainable communities,” says Pretty. “Not only that, the inshore fishery is what gives Newfoundland and Labrador its identity. It is undoubtedly the historical and cultural foundation of our province – driving the ever-important tourism industry.”

“We’ll be following up with our provincial MPs in the coming days and weeks, and we look forward to working with them on securing a bright future for the people of our province,” concludes Pretty.