December / 1997

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The following are various articles taken from the latest Bulletin , a publication put out by the MFU head office located in Shediac, New Brunswick.

Contents :

Forward To 1998

Notes & Dates

Small Craft Harbour Policy
MFU Conducts A Survey With Wharf Representatives.

In Preparation For The World Forum
Visit of An Important Leader From India

Employment Insurance
Meeting With Revenue Canada Officials

Fall Herring
Mediocre Season

Earl McCurdy visits with the MFU

Overview: Lobster

MFU Organizes a Workshop on Co-Management

Meeting On Code Of Conduct In Toronto

Too Many Small Mackerel

Forward To 1998

by Michael Belliveau
Executive Secretary

Our favorable exchange rate with the United States and the strong U.S. economy augur well for our lobster exports in 1998. We cannot be as sure about our herring roe and crab going to Japan which is hit by the economic turmoil of Asia.

New Brunswick's inshore access to snow crab in 1998 requires a strong challenge to the partnership deal ‘cooked up' by DFO and the mid-shore.

Cod remains dismal for 1998 but the Southern Gulf should open a hook and line fishery following the example of the successful hook and line trials in Newfoundland.

The biggest challenge in 1998 will be to stop DFO's cost recovery mania. Lobster License Fees in Cape Breton must be adjusted down to account for dramatic drops in landings.

In 1998, the MFU must recover stronger inshore control of its herring books in the Bay of Chaleur, Northumberland Strait, Miramichi, Sydney Bight and Trinity Ledge.

The big question for 1998 on lobster will be Fisheries Minister Anderson. Will he follow his predecessors Crosby, Tobin and Mifflin and do nothing on lobster size in the Gulf and the Sydney Bight?

In 1997 the coastal people of Eastern Canada massively rejected the policies of the governing liberals in an electoral revolt. The MFU's task in 1998 is to make sure the revolt brings forward policies that back up the all important inshore fisheries.

Notes & Dates

Small Craft Harbour Policy
MFU Conducts A Survey With Wharf Representatives.

The survey

This summer, the MFU conducted a survey with 48 wharf representatives to get their impressions of DFO's small craft harbour policy. Please note that it's not a representative survey and it doesn't necessarily speak for all fishermen since the only people contacted were wharf representatives. Here are the main concerns that were raised.

A majority of wharf reps seem to like to see fishermen involved in wharf management. 52% of the wharf representatives interviewed said they were more or less satisfied with DFO's wharf policy but 35% said the policy wasn't working at all. 13% said it was still too early to tell. Nevertheless, most fishermen think the policy is still far from perfect.

Berthage fees are considered reasonable by the majority of the people interviewed. It's the combination of all the fees (license fees, wharf fee, dockside monitoring, etc.) that fishermen consider excessive. Fishermen would like to see part of the revenues generated from license fees redirected to the Harbour Authorities to help with financing and major repairs.

Some doubts about the long term viability

Fishermen are clearly preoccupied by the long term financial viability of their harbour authority. This seems to reflect fishermen's anxiety about Small Craft Harbour's long term plans. They are particularly anxious to know whether or not Small Craft Harbours intends to maintain the level of funds available to finance major repairs.

Fishermen also mentioned that it was difficult for harbour authorities to make long term management plans when they don't now how much money they'll receive one year to the next. The fluctuating nature of the fishing season adds to their financial vulnerability. The fishermen want Small Craft Harbours to take these factors into consideration during budget planning.

Fishermen were also very critical of the influence peddling and politics they believe threaten the integrity of the subsidy allocation process. Such practices are not only unfair but fishermen believe they also endanger responsible wharf management and in the end, the policy's effectiveness.

Most fishermen wish DFO was more up front about which wharves stand a chance of surviving. On this subject, Small Craft Harbours still maintains that the closure of wharves ultimately is in the fishermen's hands. For the fishermen interviewed, DFO is abdicating its responsibility in wharf closures. DFO tries to give the impression that keeping wharves open is a choice when in reality some harbour authorities won't be able to survive financially.

The issues of taxes and insurance

Harbour authorities would like Small Craft Harbours to keep handling insurance costs beyond 2001. Taxation isn't a big issue at every wharf. According to Small Craft Harbours, property taxes in most cases only amount to a few hundred dollars. Some wharves are nevertheless faced with bigger amounts reaching in the thousands. The amount of taxes varies from province to province and whether or not the wharf is within city limits.

The property tax regimes in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. are a little more friendly than New Brunswick's and Small Craft Harbours is trying to convince the province to adopt similar regulations that could somewhat reduce the level of imposition. The bottom line remains that fishermen do not want to pay property taxes because they say they are non-profitable organizations managing what amounts to public infrastructures.

More information and training

Some fishermen mentioned they would like more information on the different sources of financing available to them. They'd also like to have more money from Small Craft Harbours to send more than one delegate to the annual workshop. Some fishermen said they'd like to see more pro- active initiatives from Small Craft Harbours and more follow up. Officials at small Craft Harbours said harbour authorities should feel free to contact them for help or more information. They had different types of resources available to harbour authorities and they are barely being used.

It's interesting to note that old and new harbour authorities have a different perception DFO's wharf policy.. Most of the harbour authorities are still relatively new and have only been around for a year or two. It seemed harder for them to evaluate the policy's impact because it's was so new. Harbour authorities that have been in place for some time were much more critical of the policy and doubtful about its success.

Lack of funds, volunteer burnout and growing tensions between the harbour authority and its own fishermen were often cited as major problems putting the survival of the harbour authority in doubt.

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In Preparation For The World Forum
Visit of An Important Leader From India

Mr. Thomas Kocherry of the National Fishworker's Forum, an organization that represents more than two million workers along the coast of India, was in the Atlantic provinces in October for a small tour of the region in preparation for the World Fisheries Forum that was held in New Delhi November 17, 18 and 19. The MFU met with Mr. Kocherry in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick.

According to Mr. Kocherry, inshore fishermen all around the world face three major dangers:

MFU fishermen who met with Mr. Kocherry agreed generally with him that those were dangers faced by the majority of inshore fishermen albeit at different levels in different regions of the world. In the context of globalization where the activity of corporations aren't limited by borders anymore, it is important for inshore fishermen to unite to fight for an inshore fishery controlled by the coastal communities.

The MFU was represented at the Forum by Herménégilde Robichaud from Val-Comeau. Ms Lucie Breau from Néguac represented women from the coastal communities of new Brunswick.

Employment Insurance
Meeting With Revenue Canada Officials

The case of the share fishers

One of the main issues was that there's still a lot of confusion regarding the admissibility to fishermen benefits for fishers who fish based on a share. The confusion stems mainly from Revenue Canada's interpretation of who is a self-employed fisher.

Earlier this year, a number of fishers who fished on a share basis and who considered themselves self-employed fishers were ruled by Revenue Canada as being employees. More confusion was added when Revenue Canada sent out a communiqué in September regarding the definition of a self-employed fisher. A number of fishers who had been ruled as employees seemed to fit the definition contained in the communiqué:

"A person will be considered a self-employed fishermen and admissible to fishermen's E.I. benefits if he has a right of ownership to all or part of the proceeds from the sale of the catch and has a financial responsibility for all or part of the expenses incurred in making the catch."

Revenue Canada officials said that the communiqué is meant as a tool to help fishers determine whether or not they fall under the definition of a self-employed fishermen. Fishers can make the determination themselves based on the communiqué without asking for a ruling.

Fishers should nevertheless take note that the communiqué isn't a directive or a regulation and is not binding. Fishers who have doubts about their particular situation are free to ask Revenue Canada for a binding ruling. Fishers who were ruled as employees earlier this year can ask for a new ruling if they believe that their new business arrangement now falls under the criteria set out in the communiqué.

The clawback

The reimbursement of E.I. benefits under E.I.'s clawback provision also caused some confusion. Under the clawback provision, you start reimbursing your E.I. benefits at a net income of $48,750 if you have 20 or fewer weeks of E.I. benefits in your claim history, or at a net income of $39,000 if you have more than 20 weeks of E.I. benefits in your claim history. Your claim history is calculated based on you history of collecting regular E.I. benefit in the past five years but not before 1996.

Some fishermen were under the impression that their net income would be calculated according to E.I. norms which would mean that the only deductible expenses considered would be salaries plus 25%. That's not the case. "Net income" under the clawback provision is "net income" as defined by Revenue Canada. Fishers are entitled, for example, to use RRSP to reduce their net income in order to avoid pay back of the benefit.

The helper

The situation of a helper working for the owner/ operator of the boat while receiving E.I. benefits was also discussed. The HRD representative stated that if the employee was receiving E.I. benefits he couldn't work more than 35 hours per week or else he'd be considered employed even if he wasn't being paid. He should also be actively seeking employment and be available for work.

The incorporated fishers

There still remains some confusion regarding the eligibility of fishers who incorporated themselves. A 40% share in the company and a relationship that is not at "arm's length" puts the fishers insurability in doubt.

Employing family members

There also remains problems with fishers that hire their spouse or other members of their family. They continue to be considered suspect for E.I. eligibility purposes.

Administrative fees

Concerning the issue of the administrative fees being charged to fishers in order to cover the buyers share of the contribution, according to Revenue Canada representatives they cannot stop the practice as long as it is labeled as an "administrative fee". However they accepted to ask for a legal advice to the Justice Department and to hold an internal study in order to find out about possible recourse on the issue.

Fall Herring
Mediocre Season

Bay of Chaleurs

In 1997, our herring fishermen had a disastrous season compared to last year. The quotas for the inshore fleet in the southern Gulf were reduced for a second year in a row from 64,000T in 1995 to 38,000T in 1997. The share of the inshore fleet in the Bay of Chaleurs went from 31,500T to 18,000T in the same period, a reduction of more than 13,000T.

On December 12, inshore fishermen from new Brunswick and the Gaspé coast had jointly set the start of the fishing season to mid-August. In mid-August, things got more complicated. First, the Japanese weren't there to buy the roe. Secondly, the prices offered to fishermen were ridiculously low. We saw a 66% plunge this year from 18 cents per pound to 6 cents. Thirdly, we believed we'd be offering a better quality of roe by waiting later in August to start fishing.

Despite the circumstances, fishers from the Gaspé refused to push back the start of the fishing season by saying that their best catches were always at the beginning of August.

We know that in normal circumstances 90% of the quota is caught by fishers from New Brinswick. Even if all the parties of the herring industry in New Brunswick wanted to push back the beginning of the season to reduce the consequences of the pull out by the Japanese, DFO opted for an early season.

After the early start, all seemed to go bad for our fishers. Some fishers didn't catch one fish when others had problems finding a buyer. Things got a little better by the end of the season. Despite the relatively small number of participants (250 compared to the 400 last year), few fishers were able to make ends meet because of the small quota and low prices.

In Escuminac and Pictou, the situation looked a lot like the one the Bay of Chaleurs. Considering the prices, fishers who participated in the fishery this fall were lucky to be able to pay for their expenses.

Following such a disastrous season, our members want to move on and prepare the 1998 season. The situation of the stocks will have to be looked at closely. The large seiners had a lot of difficulty finding mature herring this fall. We are presently concerting with DFO regarding the Gulf Small Pelagics meeting in December.

There's a saying in economy that when the construction industry is well all is well. In the inshore fishery, when the herring fishery is well all seems to go well.

New Scientific Survey on Fall Herring

DFO science has done a new survey on fall herring this year. The survey was sone in three regions: Escuminac, West P.E.I. and in the Pictou region. In each region, two boats were equipped with special equipment that recorder the fish that showed up on the sounder in the area covered by the fishermen. Fishermen, not scientists, were the ones who decided where to look for herring. The boats also fished with nets of different mesh size to gather samples of the fish surveyed by the sounder.

DFO science hopes the survey will eventually be able to give us an idea of the catch rate relative to school size. The results could eventually affect quota management if schools of fish are found to be bigger in one particular area. Using nets of smaller mesh size also allowed scientists to see one to three year old fish that usually don't show up in other surveys or in the fishermen's catches.

DFO scientists say the data may allow them to make better projections for future recruitment instead of relying on the assumption that the one to three year old classes are average.

Roe Fishery in Glace Bay

A dozen fishers from Port Morien and Glace Bay tried their chance in an experimental roe fishery in Glace Bay this fall. Despite the relative weakness in prices like in all other regions, the new fishing technique and less than cooperative weather, the results were encouraging. Three local buyers showed interest in the catches.

Earl McCurdy visits with the MFU

Mr. Earl McCurdy, president of the Newfoundland Fishermen's Union and the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters came to address the members of the MFU's Maritime Council on October 17 in Truro. Mr. McCurdy talked about the role of the Canadian Council and the importance for fishers to have one voice and some unity at the national and international levels.

Overview: Lobster

LFA 24

Lobster season ended October 10 in LFA 24 (northern part of the Northumberland Strait). We will have to wait for the official numbers from DFO to have a better idea of the landings. We know that the catches have fallen each year since the record year of 1991.

The last two years have seen important changes in the location of the fishing effort within the fishing zone. Licenses that were generally fished in the southern part of the area are now being fishes more to the north because they either changed owners or fishers moved.

Added to all these changes, the fishing effort by the natives around Richibucto complicates the evaluation of the landings that we do based on interviews conducted during the season. The average price was around $3.50/lb in New Brunswick.

The winter season well under way in LFA 35,36 and 38 in the Bay of Fundy. In the southeastern part of the Bay of Fundy, LFA 35, catches are exceptional for the 90 fishers in that area.

Fishers from southwestern Nova Scotia, LFA 33 and 34, started fishing two weeks ago (mid- November) and the results are encouraging. The prices are between $4.75 and $5.00/lb. By themselves, the annual catches since 1990 in area 34 (Cape Sable Island to Digby) are between 8,000 and 10,500 T. There are 950 lobster fishers in that area.

In LFA 33, from Halifax to Cape Sable Island, annual catches vary between 1,500 and 2,400 T for the 650 fishers.

Tagging Projects in LFA 24

The MFU participated again this year in a lobster tagging program in collaboration with DFO. This fall, 200 lobsters were tagged in Escuminac, 300 in Loggiercroft and 300 in Little Cape. As in the past, fishermen will receive more information about what to do when they find tagged lobsters. Lobsters with white tags and all non-commercial lobsters should be released after taking down some information.

Commercial lobsters with blue tags should be frozen and given to the designated person in your area. The fishers will received the market price for the returned lobster. The rate of return this year was satisfactory but there's room for improvement and more publicity is needed to increase the quality of the information.

MFU Organizes a Workshop on Co-Management

The issue of co-management is becoming more and more unavoidable. Whether or not we are in favour of co-management we can't ignore it.

In a process of abdicating its responsibilities, Fisheries and Oceans is multiplying agreements with different groups. Access to a greater part of the resource is guaranteed in agreements where beneficiaries accept to finance or even do scientific surveys or guarantee the protection of the resource.

In coastal areas, they even talk about giving over the complete management of the area to the users. The way government got out of wharf management is one clear example. Agreements pop up here and there in the crab, shrimp and groundfish fishery and the definition of partners is often improvised.

On one side, some are convinced that the entire process directly attacks large organizations by favouring management by small interest group or by region. The fishers ability to react as an entity could be greatly affected.

On the other hand, some people see, in co-management, the opportunity for the fishers to regain the control over their resource that they have been claiming for so long. The idea that the DFO should leave the management of the fishery to the fishers is well spread. Some see it as an irreversible movement and propose that we jump on the train and take control as much as we can.

Anyway, MFU must react to what is happening. The goal of a workshop that will involve around thirty fishers is to clarify the MFU's general position on co-management. Some agreements already active and others to be signed will be reviewed in order to see what is really happening and to react accordingly. The workshop should take place on January 14,15 and 16 in Moncton.

Meeting On Code Of Conduct In Toronto

The idea of an international code of conduct to be used worldwide in the fisheries was launched a few years ago by the FAO (The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization). The Canadian government liked the idea and decided to go forward with it's own code of conduct. The MFU will take part in a meeting on the subject in Toronto on January 10 and 11.

Too Many Small Mackerel

Lobster fishers from the Gulf, many of whom are also hold mackerel licenses were scandalized when they found big quantities of small mackerel in the bait that they received from Nova Scotia. The MFU complained several times to the DFO in 1996 and in the spring of 1997. According to Mr. Chris Jones, manager for small pelagics in the Maritime Region, some action was taken during the summer and some weir fishers from Saint Margaret's Bay near Halifax were forced to use graders to let the small mackerel escape.

This fall, huge quantities of small mackerel were found in the landing of the large herring seiners sold to the Cap Pelé bloaters.

Bulletin is the newsletter of the Maritime Fishermen's Union.
It is published in both English and French every six weeks.

Send all inquiries to:
The Maritime Fishermen's Union
Shediac, New Brunswick, EOA 3GO
Tel: (506) 532-2485 or Fax: 9506) 532-2487
Layout: Maurice Thériault

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