The chief goal of the Maritime Fishermen's Union has always been to organize fishermen so that they could have more control over the fishery and more security in making their livelihoods from the sea. This is getting to be more difficult all of the time. Now, more than ever, we need everyone's support to attain this goal. We need to think and work together to realize a greater return from a resource that is always fragile. And we need to work together to keep each other in business, despite the scheming of DFO and the large companies, who would like to see less and less of an inshore fishing fleet.
DFO is pushing ahead with "Partnerships", even before introducing new amendments to the Fisheries Act. (Apparently these amendments are now being rewritten again; but the handwriting has been on the wall, so to speak, for some time.) Partnerships are being written already, especially in the more lucrative species of offshore scallops, shrimp, and different species of offshore crab stocks. Now they are working on inshore snow crab. The plan is to isolate each group individually; the groups then pay for licensing, science, enforcement, and monitoring -- all in return for security of access (usually in the form of individual quotas). Will this arrangement, and these costs come as well to such species as lobster, mackerel, developing species, and groundfish? What do you think?
Fishermen have to keep up the pressure -- by whatever means it takes -- to make sure that our own vision of co-management is developed and realized, for the good of all of us. DFO must give us the time it takes to develop this; although they seem too impatient to do this. They are too obsessed with their own restructuring, and cost-recovery, and playing fishermen against fishermen. We must not be defeated by DFO's mission. Rather we must make ours clear and get the support of enough fishermen to make it happen. Last year, the Alliance of Inshore Fishermen (of which Local 6 was proud to be a member) bought some badly-needed time, but the battle is far from over.
Like the MFU, many fishermen's organizations have said that partnerships should not divide up the fishery fleet by fleet, and species by species. And before we start charging for science and enforcement, we should see how we could contribute our own efforts to cut costs as well as making the work more effective, from our point of view.
Time is ticking away, and our only hope is to come together in large numbers, and show that we have a better vision that we should work on. What do you think?
According to a draft of Fishing Regulations under the new Bill C-12, "An Act Respecting Employment Insurance", some of the same provisions apply to Fishers as to Regular Claimants. These include: maximum weekly benefit based on $750 gross earnings; and, the intensity rule, which lowers the benefit rate from 55% to 50% in 5 years, and increases the clawback of benefits if taxable income is over $39,000. The minimum earnings from fishing to qualify for benefits is $2,500. The qualifying period during which fishing earnings would be accumulated would be 31 weeks, beginning March 31.
As is currently the case, gross earnings from fishing or gross earnings less 25% boat share for the owner\operator, would be used for calculation of the weekly benefit. Earnings from regular employment during the period of up to 26 weeks which applies for regular claimants would be added after conversion to a weekly amount. All who qualify would receive 26 weeks of benefits. The window of time during which the 26 weeks of benefits would be collected could be shifted by 4 weeks at each end.
To determine the benefits to be received, total insurable earnings from fishing (after expense deductions for boat owners/lessees, or if sharing of expenses is specified in the share agreement) would be divided by the same divisor (14) as for regular claimants, depending upon the rate of unemployment. The calculation of earnings from regular employment in the rate calculation period would be done separately. The passage of the Fishing Regulations is targeted to be October, 1996.
Catches were down an average of about 30% throughout LFA 27 this year. Opinions vary as to what the cause of this was. Perhaps the stocks were down or perhaps the lobsters found other food and did not trap for us; or any combination of factors. Prices were not great in the first part of the season, either, and there was talk of fishermen throughout the district working together to respond to the issue of pricing, perhaps even bargaining, as all of LFA 27, for a minimum price. That will make for some good discussion this winter. Certainly, if the whole district works together, we should have some bargaining clout.
MFU Local 6 has led the way these past few years in discussing lobster conservation, and getting the tagging studies spread out, and the results of them shared by fishermen throughout the district. We took a critical look at the FRCC report on lobster as well. Finally, we asked that the Lobster Advisory Committee call for a vote of all fishermen in the district on the issue of whether or not to increase the minimum carapace size of our lobsters. The vote should take place this fall.
Last month the FRCC came to Sydney to ask about criteria for re-opening the groundfishery. What they heard was that fishermen throughout the area want the fishery re-opened, at least on a limited scale. Fishermen are not very impressed with the work of DFO Science in assessing the stocks, nor the way that they pick the spots for the 4Vn Sentinel Fishery. We had asked for a limited fishery over a year ago. Some fishermen were disappointed that we asked for too little, but the fact is that we got nothing at all. We are still pressing for a limited fishery -- at least enough to let fishermen find out if there's anything out there.
All the decisions rest with the Minister, however, not with the FRCC. And the big questions have yet to be answered: Who will have the chance to go fishing when the fishery does re-open? Will it be the inshore, or the offshore and midshore?
The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters has been carrying on consultations, with a view to future fishermen's registration and professionalization. Last year the CCPFH concluded its consultations on "Grandfathering-in" captains and crews who have been already classified as full-time, or who have made 75% of their income from fishing in 2 of the last 4 years. As a matter of fact, this point was made last year by the Inshore Alliance when the Core Policy was announced, and DFO had to concede and include the 75% income-earners in the Core.
New Entrants applies to those who are not now grandfathered-in. That is, you can always hire who you want on a boat, but only qualified New Entrants will be eligible to buy out a Core fishermen. The consensus for future new entrants seems to be to serve an apprenticeship of two years, and take a minimal (1 week) course in marine emergency duties/radio. We can discuss this Aug. 26, or phone with your comments. Consultations are due to wrap up this fall. DFO wants to get out of registration next year (full-time/part-time), so we have to come up with a replacement registration system, to be run either by organizations, or by the Province.
MFU Local 6 reps on the DSAB for Eastern N.S. are Kevin Nash and Jeff Brownstein (who serves as co-chair, along with the Area Manager). All of the fishermen on this Board have expressed extreme frustration with what is going on with developing species, and we don't know how much longer we can participate in this farce. These boards were supposed to be a model for co-management, but all of our input seems to be ignored. We have protested strongly against the need for business plans in public draws.
We have protested against dockside monitoring in developing species. We have insisted that draws be held when fishermen could attend them and not be changed. And we have asked for draws that still have not taken place. We have had support from our Province, but if DFO does not respond to our concerns, then we'll have to tell them to shove it. Our next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 27, in Port Hawkesbury.
A meeting was called very quickly Aug.1 to discuss 4TVn Herring. We had no information beforehand. There was a proposal from the large Gulf seiners to fish more of their 4TVn quota in the northern part of 4Vn. This would mean increasing their 4Vn portion from approximately 4,200 tonnes to 6,400. We were also told that the Management Plan had to be written up in the next few days. Thanks for the warning guys! After fighting for years, we were able to get some of our local fishermen permits to use inshore seiners. There were 6 permits issued and 2 were used. Maybe there'll be more effort this year. There will be an update on herring, as well as other issues, in the next Newsletter.
KEEP IN TOUCH!
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