The Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union and the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) don’t agree on much these days.
However, when it comes to opening up the cod fishery in 3Ps to offshore fishing vessels, the two groups share common ground apparently.
On late Friday afternoon, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced the 3Ps cod fishery would be opened to the offshore sector as of Nov. 11.
Both the FFAW and FISH-NL quickly fired off separate news releases objecting to the decision.
FFAW-Unifor said it has consistently raised concerns the stock assessment for 3Ps cod was overly optimistic and the stock is too vulnerable to allow offshore draggers to fish on spawning and pre-spawning aggregations.
The FFAW-Unifor release noted a recent stock assessment report for 3Ps cod indicates the stock will likely fall to the critical zone within three years.
“This stock will be at its most vulnerable in the coming months,” said FFAW-Unifor president Keith Sullivan.
“Allowing the offshore to begin fishing on spawning aggregations is not only irresponsible, it flies in the face of the sustainability and conservation objectives of the federal government.”
The cod quota off the south coast was set earlier this year at 6,500 tonnes, half of the 13,000-tonne quota for 2016, only 7,000 tonnes of which were caught.
In the past, when the quota is set below the 10,000 tonnes threshold, offshore trawlers have been removed from the fishery, FFAW-Unifor noted, calling for the same standard to be applied.
“In recent years, south coast harvesters have consistently said this stock is suffering,” Sullivan said.
“We are calling on the federal government to immediately reverse this decision and put the best interests of the stock ahead of the interests of corporate draggers.”
‘Actions are disgraceful’
FISH-NL, meanwhile, said with its decision to reopen the cod fishery in 3Ps to offshore factory-freezer trawlers, DFO is out to destroy the inshore fishery off the south coast.
“DFO has given the offshore draggers permission to clean up the last of the south coast cod,” FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary said.
“It’s obvious that corporate interests outweigh the interests of inshore harvesters and the fate of rural communities. Twenty-five years after the northern cod moratorium and the Government of Canada has learned nothing about fisheries management. Ottawa’s actions are disgraceful.”
With the downturn in the crab fishery off the south coast, more inshore harvesters are relying on cod to keep them afloat, the FISH-NL release noted.
FISH-NL called for the offshore fleet to be banned entirely from the 3Ps fishing zone earlier this year.
“The draggers destroyed our cod fishery in the first place, and the draggers will do it again,” said Wayne Meade, an inshore harvester from Grand Bank, in the FISH-NL release.
“The offshore boats will still be allowed a 10 per cent halibut bycatch, which the inshore wasn’t allowed. It’s ridiculous all around.”