Should There be a Fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador This Year?

The fishery is part of the food chain, the very essence of life.

We have a lot of people in this world who are starving to death and any interruptions in the food chain will only make things worse. Food gets scarce, prices skyrocket and the poor people will be the ones to suffer.

There is a lot of fear in this province and you hear it every day on radio and TV, all in an effort to get people to stay home.

Approximately 90 per cent of food in Newfoundland and Labrador comes from outside of this province by other people who harvest the fields, tend to animals, work in the factories and by truckers and ferries that bring it here. Then we have the people who work in the stores and pharmacies who keep us supplied with life’s essentials.

We cannot forget the people who are first responders who fight our fires, supply the power to our homes, tend the ambulances and most of all tend to our sick and vulnerable people. All of these people put their lives on the line every day during this pandemic.

I have heard a lot of calls from plant workers and fisherpeople to keep the fishery closed for this year, out of fear COVID-19 will spread and it is mostly fear. What would happen tomorrow if you went to the store and there was no bread, no toilet paper and Country Ribbon stopped supplying chicken?

If what we are told is true, you have to be closer than six feet to catch it. If you isolate for two weeks, you do not have the virus and will not get it unless you come in contact with a carrier.

If the fish plants can guarantee a safe workplace, then there is no reason for fisherpeople not to go fishing, but only if they want to. One way the plants can be safe is instead of one or two shifts break it up in three.

The majority of fisherpeople fish on the same boats each year, live in the same communities and if what we are told is true, if all of the crew members have isolated for two weeks with no symptoms, then they should have no fear of not going fishing, you certainly won’t catch it out on the ocean.

Fishing vessels can come in port and unload their catches without any contact with people on the wharf or the plant. A large percentage of inshore boats come in port every night and can go back to their homes every night to sleep the same as they did all winter.

People in the larger offshore boats, 65 feet and under, can stay aboard their boats until their quota is caught. Most lobster fisherpeople I know only fish with one or two persons in the boat.

I’m old enough to remember the second world war, where thousands of our people went overseas to fight, knowing that their chances of returning was very slim. But they felt it was their duty, as did three from my own family.

There are two reasons why I believe we must have a fishery. It is an important part of the food chain and we cannot expect other people to supply our needs while we do nothing. This province is on the brink of bankruptcy and we need the money to keep it afloat.

To the people who do not want to fish, that is your choice, but do not try to stop the ones who do want to fish and help keep the food chain and the economy going, especially in rural N.L.

There are a lot of smart and intelligent fisherpeople out there who know how to get the job done safely because they have been doing it all of their lives. They don’t need the FFAW and the politicians deciding if they can go fishing, that should be each fisherperson’s choice. It’s time for our politicians to treat them with respect, instead of treating them like children.

To those who do, you have my utmost admiration, be strong, keep safe. May you have a successful voyage in 2020. Fish is an important part of our diet.

 

Wilfred Bartlett
Green Bay South, N.L.

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