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Processors Fabricate Excuses for Illegal Cod Lockout

August 15, 2019

Processors Fabricate Excuses for Illegal Cod Lockout

Protests were held earlier this week as a result of the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) coordinated effort to lockout harvesters by refusing to buy cod. ASP has asserted that a “postponement” of the capelin fishery resulted in plants being unable to accept cod due to capelin landings. This is categorically false.

As harvesters know, capelin does not arrive to all bays at the same time. Various regions are opened for the capelin fishery when the capelin arrives to those areas. Opening dates are determined in consultation with both harvesters and processors on a bay-by-bay basis. At this point in the season, the capelin fishery is closed in many areas and the volumes moving through plants for processing are relatively small.

Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove accepts more cod than any company in our province and this plant does not process capelin. Despite accepting millions of dollars in government assistance on new plant equipment, it prefers to process cod frozen at sea rather than buying fish from inshore harvesters whose relatives work in the Icewater plant.

Processing plants are not busy with capelin. Processing plants are barely operating. Royal Greenland (Quin-Sea) has very little capelin this week as the capelin fishery in their area is closed. At the same time, workers at Ocean Choice International in Bonavista is inquiring about income improvement projects for this year because they don’t expect to get enough work to qualify for adequate Employment Insurance benefits. Workers in Comfort Cove averaged a total of 8 hours from Sunday to Wednesday and at OCI in Triton they average was 5 hours from Sunday to Tuesday.

To be clear, the real issue here is a coordinated effort by processing companies to supress the inshore cod fishery for their own greed and self-interest. Large companies would love nothing more than to prevent the inshore fishery from building capacity to harvest the promised first 115,000 tonnes of northern cod. The goal of these corporations is to step in to fish it themselves once the stock has grown. We will not allow this to happen.

More can be done to ensure fish harvesters can sell their catch at a fair price. Fish this time of year is abundant and the quality is good. In addition to requesting access for outside buyers, our Union also requested the issuance of new buyers’ licenses within our province to address the current near-monopoly within ASP. FFAW-Unifor will continue to pursue all available options to prevent the actions of processing companies from affecting the livelihood and future of FFAW-Unifor members and of rural Newfoundland and Labrador.