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DFO’s fish harvester registration system not working, FISH-NL says

Fishing boats at St. John’s harbour Wednesday. Many fishermen are doubtful owner-operator and fleet separation policies can be enforced enough to be effective.
The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador is raising concerns over the Professional Fish Harvester Certification Board (PFHCB) in the province. - File photo

Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) president Ryan Cleary says the fish harvester registration system in the province has a conflict of interest and isn’t working for people trying to get into the fishery.

Cleary made the claims in a news release Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 30, which indicated FISH-NL has warned the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) about problems with the Professional Fish Harvester Certification Board (PFHCB).

DFO is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the requirements for fish harvester registration in Atlantic Canada with a deadline for tomorrow, Jan. 31, the FISH-NL new release points out.

In the late 1990s, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec both set up fish harvester registration boards, assuming the responsibility from DFO.

The changes being proposed now would let DFO align regulations in other provinces, FISH-NL says.

In a letter to DFO, FISH-NL warned DFO to move forward cautiously and to reevaluate the Newfoundland and Labrador system because of the conflict between the PFHCB and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union.

According to FISH-NL news release, the PFHCB says it operates independently from the union, but the organizations are joint owners of the office building in St. John’s where they are both located.

A majority of the PFHCB’s board members are representatives of the FFAW-Unifor, as well, FISH-NL notes.

“DFO should not give the PFHCB any more authority than it already has, review its relationship with the FFAW-Unifor for conflict of interest, and insist that the Board modernize its qualifying criteria,” Cleary said.

FISH-NL says the PFHCB has been one of the issues raised time and again during DFO consultations with inshore harvesters around the province over the past few months.

According to the news release, the group says numerous harvesters who were present for the meetings have told FISH-NL they are hesitant to criticize the PFHCB, the FFAW-Unifor or DFO policy with FFAW-Unifor representatives in the room because they are worried their applications for accreditation could be impacted.

Harvesters have also complained the board is putting rules in place that will bring the inshore fishery to an end by making it very hard to get a fishing licence.

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