January / 2003

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January / 2003

Dear Fellow Fishermen/Fisherwomen:

While 2002 was a fairly lucrative year for most of our fishermen, there are many problems that lie ahead for our survival and the survival of our communities. The need for strong organizations, and for inshore fishermen to work together continues to be more and more urgent. DFO has an agenda to divide us more all the time, with an ultimate goal of privatizing the fishery and gradually handing the resource over more to corporate interests. The offshore winter fishery for cod, and what's happening with the Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review are examples of what DFO is doing while our own fishermen are focussed more on other things, like the conflict over snow crab access. There are no doubt some people in corporate boardrooms, as well as at DFO headquarters who don't mind seeing inshore fishermen fighting amongst themselves. We have to be strong. We need to see the bigger picture of what lies ahead for all of us, and maintain an organization that can ensure a sustainable future for all of us, and our communities.

The recent re-opening of the winter fishery for offshore trawlers, fishing 4T cod, in 4Vn, is a perfect example of DFO''s determination to promote the offshore fishery even more than any concern for conservation. The offshore is determined to assert their historical right to fish a large quota in our waters. This so-called right is based on a short-term history – 1986-1993 – the very years in which the fishery was destroyed. The offshore should not be rewarded for its large part of the destruction. DFO and the offshore conducted a one-year study which proved that 4T and 4Vn fish mix together at this time of year in Sydney Bight. They claim that the resident 4Vn cod are so low in numbers that fishing by these vessels should only capture 3-5% 4Vn cod. It's like playing the lottery. Both the 4T and 4Vn cod stocks are so low that no offshore trawlers should be allowed to fish in our waters any more. We have registered our opposition to this winter fishery with the Minister and other DFO officials responsible for this bad decision, as well as with the media. There will be more discussion on this issue at our Annual Meeting.

Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review

Meanwhile, the policy makers at DFO headquarters in Dartmouth and Ottawa want to loosen up the rules that govern our traditional owner-operator policy. This is the policy that says that all licences on vessels under 65 feet have to be operated by the licence owner. At the present time, there are allowances for some designated-operators in some fisheries; leasing is permitted for short-term; and some licence holders can designate operators for medical, and some other reasons. And of course there are also special allowances for estates to allow a gradual transition after the death of a fisherman.

There are also many examples of companies, and investors, who are not fishermen, buying up licences and hiring fishermen to operate them. A number of fishermen think this is not such a bad idea, but if the owner-operator policy is relaxed any more, the ultimate result would be the concentration of licences by the big companies, and more control by fish companies over the market. This leads to lower prices to the fishermen; less boats and less fishermen; and poorer coastal communities. If companies gain more control over inshore licences, then the rules for all of our fisheries will gradually change to suit their desires.

The MFU has been working very diligently, along with the other large organizations in the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH) to maintain this extremely important policy, which dates back to the days of Romeo LeBlanc.

By the way, the CCPFH published a booklet last year, "Fish Harvesters and Taxation – Know Your Rights". This was distributed last year at our Annual General Meeting. This year, at our AGM, members will receive two new publications by the CCPFH: "Financial and Retirement Planning for the Fish Harvester" and "Taking Our Bearings – a Situational Analysis of Canada's Fish Harvesting Industry'. These publications are each full of interesting and useful information, and we know that our members will be glad to get them.

Capital Gains Exemption?

In 1985, the Federal and Provincial governments granted Canadian farmers an immediate $500,000 lifetime capital gains exemption for qualifying farm property. Over the last many years, the CCPFH, and its member organizations, have been lobbying all governments steadily on this issue, for a similar exemption for fish harvesters. (I addressed a meeting of the Liberal Rural Caucus of M.P.s at their meeting in Baddeck, in July, 2001, on this issue). Sandy Siegel, our MFU Executive-Secretary, discussed this issue with Finance Minister John Manley in Moncton on Nov. 22. Minister Manley said he would look into it. The Province of Quebec has agreed to this exemption of $500,000 for fish harvesters in that province. And the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is lobbying for the same measure in this province, as well as in other provinces and at the federal level.

The lack of capital gains tax exemption for fish harvesters represents a considerable burden to those reaching retirement age, and is particularly an obstacle for a fisherman who wishes to pass his enterprise to a son or daughter.

Vessel Replacement Rules

For a number of years now, MFU Local 6 has been lobbying for a lifting of restrictions on vessel size replacement –– up to 45 feet . This restriction only applies to groundfish licences. We have been arguing that fishermen have been directing more for other species in recent years, like snow crab, that require larger and safer vessels, going farther out to sea. As far as the groundfish fishery goes, vessel size is not an issue any more. What little fishery we have left is now subject to trip limits, and numbers of hooks. Finally, DFO will be having consultation sessions this winter, and we look forward to making our views known.

Michael Belliveau, Our Friend

The passing of Michael Belliveau, last January, was a tragic loss to his family and friends, and fishermen all across this country; indeed in fishing communities around the world, since he devoted so much time to international work as well. His death occurred only a few days after attending last year''s Local 6 Annual Meeting and then delivering what will be remembered as one of the most impressive submissions to the Public Review. He said that he was very proud of our work on such a big issue, and he always had high praise and affection for Local 6. Words cannot really express how much we miss him. Personally, I feel that I am a better person for having known him.

Oil and Gas

Last year MFU Local 6 members participated in a big way in the Public Review into Proposed Exploration for oil and gas in three leases: two with Hunt Oil in Sydney Bight, and one with Corridor Resources, along the west coast of Cape Breton. Many of our members presented excellent submissions to the review, and many more besides attended the sessions. For all the good work, and all of the funds raised to campaign at the Public Review, the whole thing turned out to be nothing more than a preliminary exercise. Last summer an Ad Hoc Working Group was set up to follow up on the issues raised at the Public Review, and to prepare a report for the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), the authority that ultimately will make the decision whether or not seismic surveys will take place in these areas late this year.

By the time of our Annual Meeting, the Ad Hoc Working Group will have completed its report and submitted it to the CNSOPB. Needless to say the report will not be unanimous in its recommendation. Those of us from the fishery, along with the Environmental groups, and to some extent from the First Nations, do not agree that it is safe to proceed.

We have yet to see whether or not we have convinced the CNSOPB that there should be no exploration in such sensitive and productive areas. Nevertheless, we have had a huge impact. If not for all of our work, these activities would have taken place with too little regard for our concerns. Our protests have woken up a lot of people and prompted more responsible action from the CNSOPB, and various government departments, especially DFO.

A lot of money was raised to hire expert help during the Public Review from both the Gulf and Sydney Bight areas. On this side of Cape Breton, the following deserve our thanks:

Oil Spill Contingency Plan

ACAP (Atlantic Coastal Action Plan) Cape Breton is in the process of developing a community based oil spill contingency plan, using the template and direction provided by the existing Canadian Coast Guard Community Action Participation Program (CAPP). At the present time, they are developing a database of people and resources that would be available and willing to respond to an oil spill. This data base should include, among other things, vessels of opportunity (including master and crew). In addition, ACAP wants to identify coastal areas where debris naturally accumulates; unofficial boat launching sites; private wharves; particularly sensitive areas.

The plan is also to promote awareness; to promote volunteer training; and to develop a contingency plan that will describe resources and actions to be taken in the event of a spill. The contact at ACAP is Jude Donahue. He can be reached at 567-1628, or email: judeacap@hotmail.com. This is a topic we will be looking at to see how we can be helpful. Please let us know your thoughts on this matter.

Bras D''or Lakes as a Non-discharge Zone

It is proposed that the Bras d''Or Lakes be designated a non-discharge zone for boating sewage. There will be community meetings held to discuss this topic. There will be meetings (among many others) at Baddeck Court House, Feb.18; at TL Sullivan Jr. High, March 4; and at Boularderie Elementary, March 11. All meetings commence at 7:00 pm. For more information, call Karen Malcolm at 625-4280, or email: malcolkm@gov.ns.ca.

25 Year Anniversary of Local 6

Last Year commemorated 25 years of the Maritime Fishermen''s Union, since its founding at Baie-Ste-Anne, New Brunswick on March 20, 1977. Then, in February of 1978, Local 6 began. For 25 years, now, fishermen in Cape Breton have had their own organization, and been part of a much bigger, broad-based, Maritime organization of fishermen fighting for our right to maintain a sustainable inshore, community-based fishery that we could pass on to our children, grandchildren, and beyond.

Nancy Smith is researching the history of Local 6. She is collecting photos and stories; and compiling them into an album that we will see at our Annual Meeting. This has not been done before, so it is quite a challenge filling in all of the blanks in our story. It would be most appreciated if any members could lend or give Nancy copies of what they have. You can bring things to our meeting, or call her at 929-2745.

The last 25 years have been productive in serving the interests of inshore fishermen. Here''s to keeping the good work going!!


Please keep in touch and by all means send me your email address if you have one! Hope we all have a safe and prosperous year,

Jeff Brownstein

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