Letter to the Editor

I want to express my displeasure and frustration with the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union.

My goal, along with the help of fellow fishers, is to prove that we, the inshore fisher people, are being misrepresented by the FFAW and seek an inquiry into the affairs of this union that represent the inshore fishers here.

In 1987, FFAW disaffiliated from the UFCW and joined the CAW. The fishery has been sliding downhill every since. The last several years I have been at odds with the union’s approach to the problems we are facing in this industry.

Every time something goes wrong for us fishers, this Union gets on TV and “blah, blah, blah for us” but nothing ever happens in our favour.
Problems and disagreements with the FFAW:

  • The union is representing me, a business owner, and the deckhand workers who work for me; how can they justify this and represent us both in good faith?
  • The union is representing fish plant workers and fish harvesters. Who is the union representing when they call all the processing companies together in one room to negotiate fish prices for us harvesters and wages for plant workers who work for these large processing companies? I believe that is “collusion.”
  • I believe the union, or the people who are running the union, are operating and/or controlling a fishing enterprise to catch crab. Inshore fishers could catch that crab.
  • The FFAW has negotiated fish prices for inshore fishers for many years, but they are always lower than in other provinces and other parts of the developed world.I think the union is responsible for taking away our halibut bycatch from our turbot fishery in 4R. Isn’t there something in NAFO regulations that ensures we have a bycatch? The union is telling people they could not fish halibut if they did not make $5,000 from their enterprise. I think the union is trying to reinstate the “use it or lose it policy” that Brian Tobin had abolished years ago.
  • The union is collaborating with DFO to implement rules, regulations, policies and programs that we cannot deal with or afford. I think this is a plan to force fishers out here in 4R. We hired the FFAW to protect us from rules and regulations by DFO, not to implement and enforce them.
  • So-called Fishery Enhancement and Sustainability programs the FFAW has put in place are killing us in 4R area.
  • Quebec fishers are allowed to sell halibut as bycatch while fishing turbot in 4R while fishers here have to buy halibut in order to fish turbot in the same area.
  • Newfoundland fishers have to use six-inch nets to fish turbot in 4R while Quebec fishers from the Gaspe area can use 5.5-inch nets in the very same area.
  • The union will not allow 4R fishers to combine crab quotas here in the Gulf. Where else does this happen?
  • Fixed gear fishers here in 4R cannot combine any licences in order to better themselves.
  • The FFAW is buying back lobster and crab licences and forcing fishers to give back their groundfish licences with them.
  • The FFAW now has implemented a pilot program where they are offering some fishers up to 5,000 pounds of fish instead of 3,000. They say they are trying to improve the quality and market value. I think this is a way for the union to get its foot in the door in order to get control of the fixed gear cod quota. If you want to improve quality and market value you must get the processors who have licences to buy and process in the area, not ship it across the island to spoil on the way to the plant.
  • The inshore fixed gear fishers had quota cuts in 2+3K turbot because the foreign vessels and the vessels over 100 feet over-caught their quota by 75 per cent, I believe. We have lost shrimp to the offshore, turbot to the offshore in 2+3k, turbot in the Gulf to Quebec, halibut in 4R and we had mackerel quota cut. What now? Wait until we lose shrimp and cod in the Gulf as well?

We have to get away from the FFAW and find some other body that will represent the inshore fisher only — a representative who will not compete with us for our fish.

This union is making rules and regulations and implementing programs and policies without getting approval from fishers. I sat on the working group for turbot fishers in NAFO 2+3K. My ideas were never considered. My opinion was never asked for and the union never once asked what I wanted for our fishers in 4R.

I think the FFAW came to the meeting with a plan already in place. I think they want us few turbot fishers there only to say we were there and participated. I did not agree with the union’s ideas at the meetings but they went ahead and done it their own way none the less. Eight or 10 people should not be allowed to make important decisions for 8,000 or 10,000 thousand people.

We hired the FFAW, the group that we fishers chose to represent us and we pay them to protect us from DFO and protect our quotas from outside interests such as the large processing companies.

They have failed miserably at that in my eyes. I believe the FFAW has the purse strings of DFO wrapped around them so tightly that it restricts their ability to represent and protect the inshore fishers.

If the FFAW and DFO wanted to reduce the number of fixed gear fishers in 4R they should allow us to combine our enterprises. They should allow the under 39-foot vessels to combine whole enterprises and move up to larger vessels and double their efforts; they will need larger vessels in the future anyway.

This would then raise the value of their licences considerably making it easier for fishers to sell their licences and have a more profitable future for the fishers who stay in. The number of licences would be cut in half in a short time. This is the humane way to reduce the number of fishers. Starving them out is not.

The inshore fishers should have first access to fish resources. When there is not enough fish to support the inshore fishers who are adjacent, then the large processor should lose quotas first. Adjacency must come first. I cannot stress the word adjacency enough. We have lived on this rock for 500 years now and the sole reason was because of fish.

Now the large processing companies are, I believe, going to catch our fish and process it offshore or haul it off to some foreign country to be processed, and I do not believe the provincial or federal governments, nor the FFAW are being any help in stopping them. Frankly, I believe, they are the reason why this may happen.

I do not think the provincial government realizes how much money the inshore fishing fleet spreads around this province. We are in this situation because there are people within the provincial Department of Fisheries who are favouring the offshore over the inshore. We have to form an organization that will protect the inshore fishers only.

I believe the FFAW is a self-serving group and is not dealing with the real problems of the fishermen. We need to work together now for the greater good of all involved.

The FFAW may try to convince you that I am only trying to get something for my own personal benefit. Not true!

I want the same for all fishers alike. I want an investigation or an inquiry into what the FFAW is doing. I do not think this union can represent us inshore fishers effectively, in a way that can secure or enhance our position in the fishery.

I believe this union has become what we hired them to protect us from. I think we have to get rid of them before they get rid of us.

Oswan Tucker,
Reef’s Harbour, Newfoundland

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