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Battle for hearts and minds of fishers continues

Ryan Cleary, president of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) was in the Hawke’s Bay area July 23-24 to speak with fish harvesters.
Ryan Cleary, president of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) was in the Hawke’s Bay area July 23-24 to speak with fish harvesters.

NORTHERN PENINSULA, NL - In the midst of an ever-changing fishery, a war of words is taking place and the fight is for the hearts and minds of fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Fishermen are still being wooed to join the upstart Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL), while the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union contends the fishers should stick with the union that’s been representing them for over four decades.

This past week representatives from both FISH-NL and the FFAW were traveling the Northern Peninsula and Labrador Straits regions.

FISH-NL President Ryan Cleary and local fisher Boyd Lavers, from the over 40 Ft. fleet, organized a meeting in Hawke’s Bay Sunday, July 23.

The two came to double down on their reaction to the recent Bill Barry and Qalipu Mi’kmaq deal regarding future redfish quotas.

“The good news in the fishery is the redfish,” Cleary said. “Yet fishermen in this area who are suffering because of cuts in quota are not even mentioned in this deal.
“You don’t have anyone fighting for your future and that’s what FISH-NL is here for.”

FFAW President Keith Sullivan and regional representative Jason Spingle were also out communing with fishermen last week.

They visited communities along the Labrador Straits, as well as Port au Choix and Port Saunders.

“We’ve been on top of this [redfish issue] from the beginning, working with our mobile fleet committee,” Spingle told The Norrhern Pen. “That’s just part of the work we’ve been doing in the area.”

While roughly 40 harvesters attended FISH-NL’s Sunday meeting, Cleary stayed in the area an additional day to speak to other harvesters. Accoridng to Cleary,  many fishermen wanted to attend the public meeting but stayed away out of fear.

“There’s a real fear amongst harvesters of repercussions from the FFAW, for even being seen speaking with the president of FISH-NL,” Cleary said. “It’s a small world, especially in Newfoundland. If you’re seen on the wharf talking to me everybody knows there’ll be repercussions. That was well expressed to me.”

From speaking with harvesters, Cleary says he got word that Spingle and Sullivan had also recently passed through the area.

The Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union representative Jason Spingle recently travelled the Northern Peninsula, with FFAW President Keith Sullivan, to meet with fishers from the area.

Cleary suggests this was simply damage control on the redfish issue, after FISH-NL spoke out publicy on the matter.

Spingle, however, countered the FFAW has been on top of issues surrounding redfish with inshore harvesters throughout the past year, and the FISH-NL meeting in Hawke’s Bay did not prompt their visit to the Northern Peninsula.

“I understood through the grapevine he (Cleary) had a meeting on Sunday, but we were there on a variety of concerns,” Spingle said.

On the discussions that took place during their trip, Spingle says it’s been a strong year for catches in the lobster fishery, but there are concerns over poor signs of capelin and turbot.

As for the deal between Bill Barry and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq, Spingle says it’s too early to come to any real conclusions on how this deal will affect inshore harvesters along the peninsula.

“Allocation will be requested from many different groups.

“Given that we’re pretty much two years from any decisions, in my view it’s very premature at this point for someone to say ‘we’re completely left out,” Spingle said. “But until you’re given that guarantee, you’re going to feel left out, and I don’t blame them (fishers) for that.”

Repeating what was said in a recent FFAW press release on the issue, Spingle stressed that predominant shares from any future redfish quotas should go to the harvesters of the west coast.

According to the FFAW, Bill Barry is in agreement with them.

Meanwhile, Cleary says that at his Sunday meeting in Hawke’s Bay, failures of the past were also a big part of the discussion.

Last year’s scallop lawsuit and settlement against the FFAW was still a hot topic for many harvesters, he said.

Cleary says he plans to keep in touch with harvesters along the peninsula well into the future. He feels that a war of words and competing messages between FISH-NL and FFAW is set to continue.

“That’s the way it’s got to be until the (Labour Relations) board comes down with a vote,” he said.

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