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Message from the Secretary-Treasurer

April 5, 2018

This article was originally published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Union Forum, written by FFAW Secretary Treasuruer, David Decker.

After more than 30 years working in this industry, there are many moments to look back on with a sense of pride and accomplishment. The fishery has changed so much in the past two decades and our union has made great strides to improve the lives and working conditions of our members.

While government policies are amended and adopted on a fairly consistent basis, there are none  as integral to our fishery and our coastal communities as the owner operator and fleet separation policies. For years, our union has worked alongside allies from fisheries organizations across the country to lobby the federal government to protect the independence of inshore, owner operator fish harvesters by enshrining these policies in law.

On February 6, years of hard work paid off when Minister Dominic LeBlanc tabled amendments to the Fisheries Act in the House of Commons. While there’s still a ways to go until the legislation receives royal assent and becomes law, this is a monumental victory for our union.

Protecting the independence of owner operator fish harvesters isn’t just good for fish harvesters, it’s good public policy. The wealth derived from the fishery stays in our coastal communities rather than in corporate coffers, bringing tremendous economic benefits and spurring growth in many areas of the economy.

Through the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters Federation, we’ve been able to bring a united voice on this issue to Ottawa and our Members of Parliament listened. Now we must turn our attention to the Senate, as they’ll have the final say on whether or not our recommendations come to fruition.

Nothing in this industry, or in politics, is set in stone. Every victory we have achieved has been hard fought and is the result of our united voice. And those gains can be reversed in an instant unless we maintain pressure and persevere.

We needn’t look any further than Canada’s west coast, where corporate concentration in the fishery is so prolific that independent owner operators have become an endangered species. Foreign investors have gained control of licenses and have essentially pushed independent fish harvesters out making it near impossible to earn a decent living in the fishery.

This is why we can’t take our foot off the gas until these changes become law.

Like you, I want to see a future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador and for our fishery. And we owe it to future generations to do everything we can to ensure they can make a living in this industry.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been traveling the province, meeting with our members and hearing their ideas and concerns. What has made these meetings so invigorating for me is hearing from young people who are entering the industry with enthusiasm and commitment. They are young women and men who see themselves working in the fishery for decades to come. These are the stories that motivate us as union activists.

The legal protection and enforcement of owner-operator and fleet separation will allow young harvesters in coastal Newfoundland and Labrador fair access to fishing licenses. After all, the success or failure of our work in the present will be judged by the legacy left for the those who come after us.