The more things change, the more they stay the same. The fishery in 4Vn has changed in the 26 years that Local 6, MFU has been fighting for the future of inshore fishermen and their communities. The fishery has gone from one where the biggest catches were in groundfish, then lobster, and now snow crab. Boats are now bigger and better, with improved technology. Fishermen are now more trained and more educated. But the survival of inshore fishermen, and our communities, is just as threatened as ever, while in different ways.
The battle for control of the resource by either inshore fishermen, or corporations, continues. DFO, and other government agencies, seem to be throwing more support to the corporate agenda. However, inshore fishermen's organizations throughout Atlantic Canada, have sent a strong message to DFO, and their Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review (AFPR), that Fleet-Separation and the Owner-Operator policy, must continue and be strengthened. Inshore licences, we are saying, should only be owned by the fishermen who operate them (with some allowance for designated operators). In other words, corporations, or large companies, should not be able to hold licences in inshore fisheries like lobster and snow crab, whether outright or "in trust".
DFO will be holding consultation sessions called "Preserving the independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada's Atlantic Fisheries" and everyone is urged to attend. The nearest session will be held at the Maritime Inn, Port Hawkesbury, beginning at 10:00am, Tuesday, January 13.
The real challenge we have to address is how to help our new entrants our successors who will take over our enterprises to be able to afford to get in to the fishery. The costs of our enterprises have increased dramatically in recent years. That's why licences are being bought up by big companies who can afford them, and then turned over to full-time fishermen to operate "in trust". This, of course, can lead to monopolies as the companies get more of the resource. If we want to avoid this, then we have to figure out how to help the next generation acquire our licences.
There may be other major concerns that you see in the fishery these days. The threat of oil and gas exploration in our waters has been a major preoccupation for many of us the last few years, and unfortunately, will not go away very soon. We will continue to fight! The seal problem is one that concerns many of us. We will discuss this at our Annual General Meeting. What are the other pressing issues? We hope to hear from you.
As of February 1, 2004, those members who have signed and paid will have a health plan with Blue Cross. This has been a major issue for many of our members and we are glad to be able to deliver on it. It took a lot of running around to get members signed-up. Thanks to some of the port reps that helped: Brian Timmons, Pat LeBlanc, Clint Fraser, Kevin Nash, John Prendergast, and Herman Wadden.
Those members getting the Plan will receive their cards from Blue Cross soon. The plan covers 80% of drug, and other costs, including Travel, Ambulance, Diabetic supplies, Other practitioners, Hearing Aids, and Vision care.
Members who have not bought into the plan have 30 days to join. After that, a Medical assessment may be required, and acceptance cannot be guaranteed. Please call me if you have any questions.
OIL AND GAS
This continues to be a very frustrating battle. We put a lot of time, energy, and money, into fighting a process of no-accountability, on the part of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), and some politicians who had their mind made up against us, and refused to listen to our side. The worst of these included Premier John Hamm, who ducked-out back doors to avoid meeting those with the scientific doubt he said he would heed. And there was NS Energy Minister Cecil Clark, who also refused to meet with any of us, and would do anything to promote oil and gas, and ignore fishermen and our supporters. Some of our members should remind him that he represents a riding where Fishing is the biggest industry! Finally, former DFO Minister Robert Thibault, who consistently argued FOR the oil and gas industry, and actually muzzled his own scientists who advised AGAINST seismic testing off the west coast of Cape Breton last month!
In the end we had support from DFO Science, Liberal leader Danny Graham, the NS New Democratic Party, Premier Pat Binns of PEI, and NB Premier Bernard Lord, and the government of Quebec who stopped Corridor and Hydro-Quebec from doing seismic testing in other parts of the Gulf at the same time. Add to these, many environmental groups, independent scientists, and the Priests of Inverness County.
Hunt Oil did not try to do anything in Sydney Bight this fall because they lost their partner. They may try late in 2004. Their programme is many times bigger and more intense than what Corridor did off Inverness County. We have to stop them. We will have lots of scientific and community support, but we need to make lots of noise, and lobby lots of politicians. I believe that if we kick and scream enough we can stop this. But everybody has to do their part.
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,
For all of you members that now have an e-mail address: it would be nice to get an e-mail from you, so that your e-mail address can go on our Members' list. Please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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