Fish harvesters in Newfoundland and Labrador held two demonstrations on Monday in response to an illegal lockout from fish processing companies. In Old Perlican, fish harvesters came together to protest processors’ refusal to purchase cod the opening week in 3KL. Both Quinsea (Royal Greenland) and Quinlan’s refused a fresh catch landed at the wharf in Old Perlican. At the St. John’s waterfront, harvesters offered their catch free to the public rather than let the cod go to waste. Both events garnered significant attention from the media and the general public, and as a result of these actions provincial Fisheries Minister Gerry Byrne announced the province would open up the cod fishery to outside buyers.
On Friday, FFAW-Unifor submitted a formal request to Minister Byrne to use all available legislative and regulatory tools to prevent this lockout from occurring as well as to discourage future action by issuing new processing licenses and opening the cod fishery up to buyers outside of the province.
“This cartel-like behaviour by processing companies sets a dangerous precedent that must be addressed so that these actions cannot be replicated in the future. FFAW-Unifor will pursue all possible remedies to resolve this blatant violation of the Master Collective Agreement. The livelihood of fish harvesters cannot be held hostage by the actions of a few large fish processing companies,” says David Decker, FFAW-Unifor Secretary-Treasurer.
The only member of the Association of Seafood Producers that is confirmed to be buying cod this week is the Labrador Shrimp Company, which provides no relief to the thousands of harvesters on the island that planned to start fishing this weekend.
Of particular concern is Icewater Seafoods in Arnold’s Cove, which received nearly $6 million in provincial and federal funding last year for new groundfish equipment only to ship in frozen cod for processing this week while refusing to purchase fresh, local product.
“It’s appalling that a company would receive millions in taxpayer dollars for investment in their plant only to turn around to take illegal action that shuts out Newfoundland and Labrador fish harvesters,” says Decker. “It seems like processors want a fishery of 50 years ago, where merchants ruled and unilaterally dictated how the fishery was prosecuted. We will not go backwards.”