March / 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 :

Fishermen Suffering From Cost Recovery
Enough is Enough

MFU Writes Prime Minister About Endangered Species Bill

Mifflin at Convention

MFU Convention
Conservation Access Equity

Lobster Fishery in Southwest Nova Scotia
Good Landings in General

Smelt in the Southern Gulf
A Season Marked by a Series of Catastrophes

Communication Secretariat in Halifax continues to receive praise

Spring Herring
DFO to Impose Dockside Monitoring in the Southern Gulf

Fishermen Suffering From Cost Recovery
Enough is Enough

Fishermen in Atlantic Canada have been hit in varying degrees by the government’s plan to reduce the national deficit through cost cutting and “cost recovery.” Cost recovery has affected fishermen primarily through an increase in licence fees, the introduction of wharf fees, observer fees and dockside monitoring costs, as well as UI premium hikes and in some cases fees for certain premium hikes and in some case fees for certain Coast Guard services, scientific research fees and even the costs of managing local fishing plans.

The MFU’s Michael Belliveau recently addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on this issue. Mr. Belliveau called for a “moratorium on cost recovery” stating that “Enough is enough.” To help build our case for a moratorium on cost recovery, we recently interviewed a number of fishermen in the MFU. They generally agree that massive licence fee hikes have been the most painful cost recovery mechanism. Lobster fee hikes have been the most severe, increasing by up to $1,895.

Most fishers have begun paying various kinds of wharf fees, ranging in most cases from $200-$500 annually for their home wharf. The government is gradually turning over responsibilities for wharves to fishing communities and several of the fishermen interviewed are concerned that wharf fees have not leveled off and may climb into the thousands.

Fishermen in many areas have also recently been obliged to pay for dockside monitoring in such fisheries as groundfish, shark, herring, snow crab, tuna and some of the “underutilized” species. Fees are assessed differently from area to area; some are charged per ton for herring, others per hour while they unload, or others a flat fee on a weekly basis. Most fishermen are not against dockside monitoring but feel that the government should pay. Those who are not yet paying are strongly opposed to the imposition of such fees.

Observer fees have begun to affect some of our fishermen;; in southwest Nova Scotia, they’re paying $540 each annually for observers who will accompany them 20% of the time. Other fishermen have had to pay for observers in the toad crab, tuna, and emerging fisheries. Some fishermen have also had to pay observer fees indirectly. For example, the MFU had to pay for observers in the snow crab fishery.

Our members seem split on the issue of Unemployment Insurance. There is no doubt that premiums will rise in 1997; most of the fishers interviewed believe it will be about a three-fold increase. Many fishers feel that this is another slap in the face and that it’s one more cost to add to the growing list. However, some fishermen are relieved that they will still be eligible for U.I. benefits, and others feel that more fishermen will be eligible for benefits under the new system.

The Coast Guard is beginning to charge for some services. For instance, some fishermen must now pay a towing fee to the coast guard if they break down, and most can expect this to be a chargeable service in the future. However, most areas presently have an auxiliary coast guard and can avoid such charges. There are countless less tangible ways that “cost recovery” will hurt fishermen. Fishermen are no longer paid travel expenses to attend DFO meetings.

Subsidies, loans and government insurance is increasingly difficult for fishermen to obtain. DFO personnel and offices are decreasing in number making it more difficult, inconvenient and costly to make contact with them to buy tags and permits and attend meetings. DFO officers are also less present for enforcement purposes. And, conservation and scientific research have become issues of primary concern as the government makes cuts in these areas.

The fishermen interviewed do not seem entirely against some degree of fee increases in certain areas, but most feel that it has been too much, too fast. Fishermen are also worried that they haven’t seen the end of rising fees and declining services; for example, enormous amounts of work are being put into the new fixed gear management councils. These costs are the fishermen and not DFO’s. “Cost Recouvery" is increasing the cost of doing business dramatically at a time when many fishermen are already suffering from declining stocks and increased competition.

* The chair of the Standing Committee, M.P. Joe McGuire, has written to Mifflin following our Ottawa meeting requesting that he would not "impose any new fees or increase any existing fees until such time that it can be demonstrated the industry and coastal communities are in a position to absorb more fees without undue adverse effects"

MFU Writes Prime Minister About
Endangered Species Bill

The MFU wrote to the Prime Minister, M. Jean Chretien to express our concern with Bill C Act respecting the protection of wildlife species.... The lack of consultation with the fisheries sector has led to some amendments that could leave fishers quite exposed to prosecution for matters beyond their control. For example there is no provision for any kind of compensation in cases where fishermen would be directly affected by an emergency order or a recovery plan.

The Bill would empower a committee to determine whether a species is threatened or endangered prior to public consultation. The MFU strongly believes that the DFO has the proper mandate and expertise to deal with the protection of the ocean and is in a better position to take decisions so important to fishers.

“..when our fishers see that the committee already has the harbour seal listed they’ll seriously wonder if the House has not finally drifted off into cuckoo-land.” Says Executive Secretary Michael Belliveau.

Mifflin at Convention

The fisheries Minister spent the first half hour glad handing and chatting with delegates. He then gave a general talk to delegates affirming his commitment to inshore fishers.

Then he did not want to take questions from floor but wanted instead to meet MFU’s Maritime Council. In that meeting we covered our major preoccupations with cost recovery, lobster minimum size, reopening concerns in 4T, permanent access to crab, the difficult situations with the native fisheries, the division of fixed gear quotas in SW. Nova Scotia. In a meeting like this, we got very few strong commitments but the issues were well understood.

Emerging Fisheries

Experimental fisheries or emerging fisheries also retain the attention of fishers. M. John Kearny, a long term MFU collaborator, gave an interesting point of view on the subject. Mr. Kearney believes that emerging fisheries can be used to counteract the dependence on lobster for many inshore fishers.

However we must be aware of certain dangers while developing the new fisheries. Potential dangers include the creation of elite fishery that would transfer the wealth on only a few fishers. We must also be very careful not to harm our existing fishery by the exploitation of new ones.

M. Kearney believes personal initiatives must cohabit with a conservationist approach to develop new fisheries. He recommends the creation of Local Committees in order to control those emerging fisheries in a spirit of transparency as well as a cooperative approach with the scientific sector and the environmentalist groups.

MFU plays an international role

Maurice Thériault, project officer for the MFU, gave a presentation reviewing the activities of the international committee. During the past year the MFU received visitors from inshore representatives from Senegal, France, Iceland, and Brazil. More and more we are discovering that the struggle of the inshore is the same all over the planet.

Mr. Serge Blais of The Catholic Organization for Development and Peace explained why his organization was interested in supporting exchanges between the MFU and the Senegalese collective of Inshore Fishers (CNPS).

Mr. Aliou Sall of Senegal described the international exchanges between the MFU and the CNPS as being the expression of solidarity rather than based on an aid or assistance relationship. Mr. Sall also stressed that the transfer of the offshore overcapacity to the south was affecting both fishers from the North and from the South.

Election of the Maritime Executive

The President of the MFU, Mr. Frank McLaughlin, the Secretary Treasurer and the Vice President for New Brunswick we re-elected while Mr. Emmett Jessome of Cape Breton was elected Vice-President for Nova Scotia.

Lobster Minimum Size

It’s not without difficulties that the delegates found an acceptable common position concerning the lobster minimal size increase for the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Even if the necessity to reduce the pressure on the resource and to increase the egg production is recognized by all, there are still some differences of point of view on the means to attain that goal.

According to some fishers we should increase immediately the minimum size of 1/16 of an inch to eventually get to 2 and 3/4 inches regardless of the situation in zone 24 (Northern part of P.E.I.). This would have the effect of increasing the number of bearing females and we would benefit of an extra protection. But others would rather see the bigger lobsters return to the sea in order to make sure that there is a constant presence of reproducing females in the water.

But the difficulty for many fishers is to return to the fishing ground some lobsters that are likely to be caught by competing fishers. This possibility is much more significant for those fishers who are fishing close to the border lines of the different LFAs. Actually, the problem is the same for those who fish close to the grounds where native fisheries are being conducted since nobody really knows which rules are being respected. Finally, in the actual context where we are witnessing constant reductions in the resources affected to conservation and law enforcement, some fishers wonder if it is adequate to add conservation measures on one hand while we have less and less means to have the existing rules being respected on the other hand.

So, one resolution coming from Local 1 was proposing that everybody should take action to get to the minimal size of 2 and 3/4 inches by an immediate increase of 1/16 everywhere in the southern Gulf. That would have leave the same gap between the minimal size in LFA 24 and other LFAs for the two next years and that appeared to be unacceptable for many fishers. To avoid a situation that would have left the MFU with no practical resolution in favour of lobster protection, it was decided to work on an emergency resolution that would be acceptable for a good majority.

The proposed resolution gives a time frame of four year to every zone to get to the goal of 2 and 3/4 inches. It would however, force LFA 24 to move right away since it would take four years with 1/16" steps to reach the size of 2 and 3/4 inches from 2 and 1/2 inches.

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MFU Convention
Conservation Access Equity

Delegates were able to express their concern on several subjects but lobster conservation was certainly the most debated issue. Accessibility to herring stocks for the inshore and the proposed DFO partnership agreements also kept their attention. The three following resolutions adopted by the Convention give a good idea of the fishermen’s concerns:




Lobster Fishery in Southwest Nova Scotia
Good Landings in General

Fishing activities were starting to pick up around the 15 th of March in LFA 34 between Cape Sable Island and Digby in Southwest Nova Scotia. According to Hubert Saulnier, Secretary Treasurer for Local 9, fishers started to haul their traps daily on the third week of March. Prices paid for lobster is now $7.00 a pound. At the opening of the season on November 25, fishers were getting $5.00. Price started to rise in early January.

The majority of the fishers north of Yarmouth left their traps in the water all winter. Catches for LFA 34 were generally good and sometimes higher than last year except for the area close to Yarmouth where catches have dropped mainly in deep water.

In the Cape Sable Island area, catches are reported to be much better than last year. In LFA 33 (east of Cape Sable Island up to Halifax harbour). Catches are lower than last year.

Smelt in the Southern Gulf
A Season Marked by a Series of Catastrophes

The smelt season in Eastern N.B. was affected by the late arrival of ice. In the Cap Pele area, where smelt fishing is done in open waters, this situation didn’t affect the fishery as it did in other areas.

Generally speaking, fishing had to be postponed for at least two weeks because of the absence or weakness of the ice. When the ice was thick enough to receive the equipment, it seems that the local ice situation permitted seals to come closer to the coast than usual, causing a lot of damage to the fishing rigs.

Later, strong wind coinciding with mild temperatures caused the lose of more than a hundred box nets. The most important damages were suffered in the Miramichi area where drifting ice carried away more than $100,000 in equipment. Some other equipment was lost in the Buctouche area the same way.

The MFU have sought compensation for the affected fishermen through the province and we are still waiting for an answer.

Communication Secretariat in Halifax continues
to receive praise

Information about past and future DFO and fisheries related meetings in Scotia Fundy are now available through the Communications Secretariat. The Secretariat will provide minutes, schedule of agenda of fisheries related meetings as well as several reports issued by DFO, the FRCC and the New-Brunswick and Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries. Nova-Scotia Locals of the MFU have been active in the creation of the Secretariat. For more information about the Communications Secretariat and the Fax on demand service, contact the Secretariat at 902-426-6409.

Spring Herring
DFO to Impose Dockside Monitoring in the Southern Gulf

DFO is actually trying to impose dockside monitoring for the spring herring fishery in Southeast New Brunswick. During a meeting with the Herring Coordination Committee for South East New Brunswick held in Bouctouche on March the 21st, representatives from Pèse-Pêche indicate their intention to apply a uniform dockside monitoring system for the whole southern gulf.

Fishers representatives didn’t really appreciate DFO’s approach which seems to place them in front of “fait accompli”. Moreover, even if the whole system was financed by the fishers, nobody could gave a precise estimate of the cost of the proposed (or imposed?) system.

According to Mario Cormier, organizer for the MFU for Local 2. “DFO apparently wants us to bear the responsibility for last year’s situation when the fishery had to be stopped at once following an over fishing of the global quota. For the last ten years we have worked through a coordination program which worked very well. Every day we knew the quantity of fish landed. They are now trying to impose a very expensive system that may be acceptable for the fall herring but that could be too costly for the herring fishery.”

Spring herring quota for last year was slightly over 150,00 metric tons. This quota was fished by fishers from four provinces and landed all over the territory. Dockside Monitoring in such a situation could indeed be expensive.

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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