Fishermen’s organizations from across Atlantic Canada say the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is opening the door to the elimination of Canada’s , independent fishermen and moving to de-regulate the Atlantic fishery.
Representatives of thirty-three (33) owner-operator fleets from Quebec to Newfoundland say the Department has shown nothing but contempt for fishermen and their organizations by launching a top-down, centrally controlled and manipulative policy process without any notice. They released a joint policy statement today in response to the Department’s discussion document “The future of Canada’s Commercial Fisheries”.
They say the Department’s initiative is a barely veiled attack on the policies that protect self- employed, independent fishermen and a justification for hobbling even further Canada’s dwindling fisheries science capability. They say the DFO is biased against small businesses in the fishery and in favour of large corporations. They fear the Department will allow fish processors and other investors to get their hands on valuable lobster, crab and shrimp licences.
The inshore and mid-shore owner-operator fleets in Atlantic Canada land more than 75% of the value of Atlantic fisheries through their control of lobster and crab fishing and their majority share of the shrimp fishery. Under government policies in place since the early 1980s licences to these fisheries are restricted to individual fishermen who must own and operate their own vessels. Fish companies have been trying to gain access to these licences for years.
The fishermen’s organizations say they are fearful the Department plans to introduce British Columbia’s disastrous licence leasing schemes to the Atlantic fishery. The leasing policy in effect in BC allows non-fishermen to control licences and quota and lease them to working fishermen for up to 75% of the value of their landings.