COVID 19 - Inshore Fishery Update | FFAW-Unifor | Fish Food & Allied Workers Union

COVID 19 – Inshore Fishery Update

April 1, 2020

Over the past week, FFAW committees and staff have been working hard behind the scenes to assess the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation and its implications on the 2020 fishery. The fishery in the province remains in constant uncertainty for several reasons during the COVID-19 crisis. First and foremost, fish harvesters and plant workers are concerned about their safety at work. Work in the fishery is not conducive to social distancing. COVID-19 thrives on close human contact, and that is what exists on fishing vessels and in plants. As one harvester said on a conference call last week, “People are scared.”

Our demographic challenge does not lessen this fear. NL has the oldest population in Canada and that is reflected in the fishery. Most harvesters and plant workers are over 50 and a good number are in their 60s and 70s. As most now know, COVID-19 is particularly harmful to older people, which is why harvesters and plant workers are so nervous and why the focus should be on protecting their health and welfare.

Postponed Fisheries

Last week the elected snow crab negotiations committee members made the recommendation to delay the crab fishery until at least April 20, possibly longer, due to COVID-19. This request was submitted formally in writing to DFO and we would expect the request to be accepted given the widespread agreement with this decision across industry. The discussions around crab remain ongoing, with regular calls between the committee and processors to determine our next steps and continue to analyse markets and what that will mean for harvesters and industry workers.

Those next steps include the continuation of discussions with the established committee and a series of working groups including a steering committee to review progress, direct focus, and liaise with government where required. There is a joint working group on fish harvester safety that includes wharf procedures and a working group on fish processing safety. It is important to note that these groups began related to crab but procedures will be considered for all species.

In addition to the snow crab fishery, the decision was also made to postpone the herring and halibut fisheries due to the same concerns surrounding COVID-19 and the safety of fish harvesters, plant workers and all those in between, including dockside monitors and transportation providers. We requested that DFO postpone the herring fishery until at least April 11 and the halibut fishery until April 26, possibly longer, as we continue to re-evaluate the situation for both fisheries on a daily basis.

We are now also in discussions with committee chairs regarding the lobster fishery. These discussions are ramping up this week and next, as we hear from our leaders in the LFAs and begin discussions with SPONLThere have been significant conversations taking place throughout Eastern Canada regarding lobster. Some maritime LFAs have already received delays and several others are considering such adjustments. We will continue to engage our members and provide updates as soon as they become available.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

As fish harvesters, you are eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) when your current EI claim runs out. While $2000 per month may help you through the short term, we know this is not a long-term solution – especially if there is no fishery this year. That is why we are working on proposing a compensation package to the federal and provincial governments that will alleviate some of the impact COVID-19 is having on the fishery this year. For enterprise owners, we know you have families of your own, bills to pay, boat and license loans, and crew members who are depending on you. Rest assured, we will continue to advocate on your behalf to ensure you and your families are taken care of as the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.

Communications

FFAW President Keith Sullivan has been on CBC’s The Broadcast several times in the past two weeks speaking to the ongoing work in the various fisheries. The Broadcast airs each weeknight at 6:05 pm (5:35 in most of Labrador) on CBC Radio. You can also listen to past episodes online by clicking here.

Sullivan also spoken with the Telegram yesterday providing an update on the crab fishery in light of COVID-19.

Follow our Facebook page for regular updates on the fishery and COVID-19.

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