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Reopen Terms of Union with Canada on fishery: FISH-NL

FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary
FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary

Many have done so before and now the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador’s (FISH-NL) is calling for the province’s Terms of Union with Canada to be reopened.

In a news release Thursday, FISH-NL called for the deal to be revisited with regards to fisheries management, specifically so the principles of adjacency and historical attachment can be entrenched in the Constitution.

“The fact that the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans can dictate who has first access to Newfoundland and Labrador’s primary resource is wrong for the province, wrong for adjacent inshore harvesters and rural communities, and wrong for our future,” FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary said.

The new release points to federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc announced this month a fourth fishing licence for Arctic surf clams on the Grand Banks and off Nova Scotia as a concern.

In order to be eligible for a licence, LeBlanc dictated that applicants must be an Indigenous entity located in one of the four Atlantic provinces or Quebec.

As well, LeBlanc announced in July first access to the growing redfish stock in the Gulf of St. Lawrence will be given to the Qalipu First Nation. It will be caught and processed by west coast fish processor Bill Barry.

“LeBlanc is oblivious to the desperate state of our fisheries, the monumental mismanagement of the resource, and the unprecedented struggle faced by our inshore harvesters,” Cleary said.

“Ottawa is compensating Indigenous peoples on the backs of Newfoundland and Labrador harvesters, and that’s just wrong.”

Cleary said the province’s inshore harvesters must have first access to all adjacent fish resources.

Newfoundland and Labrador must also be the primary benefactor of all fish resources off its shores, in the same way as the main benefits from the offshore oil and gas industry are guaranteed to the province in the Atlantic Accord, he argues.

“Quebec fishermen can fish crab off the Great Northern Peninsula while Newfoundland fishermen cannot. Fish harvesters off the south coast must throw away dead halibut while foreigners and Maritimes can keep what they catch,” he said.

Cleary plans to write Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Dwight Ball and the province’s MHAs and MPs outlining his request.

“Sixty-eight years after Confederation — and 25 years after the northern cod moratorium — the state of the Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries is a national shame, and an international disgrace,” he said.

“There’s no moving forward without a fundamental change in fisheries management.”

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