Atlantic Fishers Warn Government Reforms Could Undercut Workers

March 6, 2012, 3:50 PM EST

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Atlantic Canadian fishers are raising flags over a federal government proposal to deregulate the fishery, including the institution of major reforms to the licensing system that would extend access to large corporations. 

FFAW/CAW President Earle McCurdy said that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans fishery modernization proposal (released in a discussion paper entitled "The Future of Canada's Commercial Fisheries) makes no mention of owner-operator and fleet separation policies that have been used to prevent large companies from buying up and controlling inshore fish quota.

The absence of these policies could open the door for large corporations to hold licenses to catch lobster, crab and shrimp stocks that McCurdy said will undercut the self-employed, independent fisherman.

"The Ottawa bureaucracy of DFO has very little understanding of the industry and the coastal communities that they are managing," said McCurdy. "We urge the Minister to listen to the owner-operators in the coastal communities, not the bureaucrats in Ottawa."

In a joint response to the DFO discussion paper released on February 29, 33 owner-operator fleets from Quebec to Newfoundland (including the FFAW/CAW) chided the government initiative, labeling it a "top-down, centrally controlled and manipulative policy process without any notice" in a media release on March 5.

The organizations say they are fearful the DFO plans to introduce a licensing leasing to the Atlantic fishery that's similar to British Columbia.

"The leasing policy in effect in B.C. allows non-fishermen to control licenses and quota and lease them to working fishermen for up to 75 per cent of the value of their landings."

A full copy of the response is available at:

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