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Harvesters feel left in the dark with Qalipu redfish deal

The recent announcement of redfish quotas between Barry Group of Cos. and Qalipu Miǯkmaq First Nations has brought on strong criticism from Fish-NL. They feel the announcement is leaving many harvesters with long-time investments in the fishery empty handed. Pictured (from left) Jason Sullivan; Ryan Cleary, president of Fish-NL; Boyd Lavers, captain of the over 40-foot fleet and Richard Gillett, vice-president of Fish-NL.
The recent announcement of redfish quotas between Barry Group of Cos. and Qalipu Miǯkmaq First Nations has brought on strong criticism from Fish-NL. They feel the announcement is leaving many harvesters with long-time investments in the fishery empty handed. Pictured (from left) Jason Sullivan; Ryan Cleary, president of Fish-NL; Boyd Lavers, captain of the over 40-foot fleet and Richard Gillett, vice-president of Fish-NL.

NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL - The recent deal between Barry Group of Cos. and Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations is sparking strong criticism from Fish-NL.

Fish NL President Ryan Cleary says harvesters along the Northern Peninsula feel they should be first in line for any resources in the area – particularly when many are grappling with massive quota cuts and economic uncertainty.

“The inshore harvesters were outraged,” Cleary said. “They’ve really been hurt, and the redfish returning to the gulf has been a sign of hope for fishermen who are starving for quota.

“They felt this was an absolute slap in the face.”

The deal was made with the Qalipu band based in Corner Brook for red fish quotas that haven’t been caught for over two decades. With the biomass in ocean perch expected to keep rising exponentially, Bill Barry says it may be the biggest stock recovery in Canadian history.

The major criticism from Fish-NL is that the Qalipu Mi’kmaq do not have the same level of investment, connection or history with the area that the inshore harvesters do, and they ought to be given top priority on any re-opening of quotas. But instead, Cleary says, they are being put to the back of the cue.

“The inshore fishermen and their enterprises are the economic engine of outport and rural communities of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “First priority and first access to all our fish needs to go to them.”

Port Saunders fisherman Boyd Lavers believes that this was an underhanded deal, as many local harvesters were kept outside of the announcement. He says it is unfair to people like himself who have spent years investing and labouring in the industry.

“I’ve been waiting on that redfish quota for two years,” Lavers said. “Yet here they are now bringing in a new group of fishermen, and here we are invested into our licenses, our gear, and we’re with no quota. There’s something not right there.

“I don’t want to come off as prejudice, I just believe in right and wrong.”

Lavers has invested $4 million into the fishery in the past few years. He says he would be only too happy to fish beside members of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq, so long as they too had taken similar financial ventures into the industry.

The exact quotas for redfish along gulfs of the Northern Peninsula will not be determined until 2019, but a meeting for harvesters on the issue is taking place in Hawkes Bay on Sunday. 

With a population explosion in groundfish, many harvesters are already gearing up to get their piece of the pie. But in this new transition period for the fishery, Cleary says there are many questions around price and quotas they have got to be dealt with before fishermen can feel assured they will make a living.

“They have to fight for the quotas,” Cleary said. “If not - there’s no future.”

kyle.greenham@northerpen.ca

By Kyle Greenham
The Northern Pen

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