Oil and Gas Issues
MFU Local 6 Brief to The Atlantic Fisheries Policy Review - March 14/2001
Presentation by Local 6 to the Parliamentary Standing Committee
and Oceans - November 23, 1999
Thank you, Honourable Members of Parliament, for the opportunity to share with you, today, some of our thoughts and experience on the issue of First Nations' Treaty Rights and the Commercial fishery.
In my area: the East Coast of Cape Breton Island, we have begun the development of the "Cape Breton Co-management Board". This process goes back at least a couple of years, and involves four organizations of inshore fishermen; representing the majority of fishermen in Sydney Bight NAFO Area 4Vn. While we are in the Scotia-Fundy Region, which is so diverse, we are more like-minded as are the Bonafide inshore fishermen in the Gulf Region. We have been working with DFO at the Area level to develop and implement policies and fisheries management at the Local level, with fishermen, through our organizations, playing an increasingly greater role in fisheries management.
It would seem that the logical step now is for this Board to bring in the First Nations in our area, to work as partners in this Co-management process. This was the message sent to the First Nations in Cape Breton. So far we have had one introductory meeting, and we are looking forward to continuing the dialogue. The First Nations are seeking some financial assistance from DFO to carry out our negotiations together, and we support them in this. We also agree to deal with Cape Breton Island as one unit. Thus we bring in the representatives of fishermen's organizations in Richmond County, and Inverness County which is in the Gulf Region. The fishermen and First Nations in Cape Breton are all very happy to see one set of Negotiations for Cape Breton as one large natural community where the fishermen are like-minded; as, I believe are the First Nations.
The essential ingredients towards successful negotiations, and then, co-existence of Natives and commercial fishermen, are the following: peace and friendship; the community base; local authority; strong organizations that can work together; support (and not obstruction) from DFO; and the financial responsibility from the Crown to make room for new entrants from the Native Bands, by buying out licenses from commercial fishermen ready to leave the fishery.
To elaborate on these points further: peace and friendship is obviously urgent. We have had good relations in the past in our area and we hope to build on that. We have to understand each other's points of view and be willing to work together. From our point of view, we are involved in fisheries that are highly regulated, and would feel threatened by others fishing in different seasons; and/or with different rules.
The community base in this case is Cape Breton Island. While DFO splits us into the Gulf and Scotia-Fundy Regions, and sends us to meetings in Moncton and Halifax, we agree with the five Bands in Cape Breton that there should be one master plan for what the Mi'kmaq call Unamaki. We should meet in Cape Breton and our decisions should be made there. If there are either commercial fishermen or Native fishermen from outside of Cape Breton who wish to fish our waters, then they should abide by our plans. We have agreed to this.
Our preference is for local authority and also that more of the decision-making happens locally. It also means that just because our plans don't work in Shelburne County, or British Columbia, or wherever, they should not be rejected. Let us not destroy good local initiatives for lack of conforming to regional or national policies. Success will be best achieved at the local level and should be supported.
Strong organizations that can work together are essential on the part of both the Natives and the commercial fishermen. Never was the need for appropriate representation and good leadership more urgent then now. Fishermen must voice their concerns and get their information from organizations that are democratically accountable, and have the necessary resources and experience. Native leaders must be able to speak for their people. Their rights being "Communal" really simplifies matters, and is to be respected if the leaders of Native Bands really want to see their communities gain as a whole, rather than a very few individuals. Inshore fishermen's organizations have been struggling for years for the survival not of a few individuals, but for our communities.
Another point about organizations is that inshore fishermen's organizations, and First Nations' organizations are based on broad-based fishing communities not according to species or gear- type. We have spoken in our area of the need for basic policies and understanding first about the fisheries in general. Only after the basic framework is in place do we talk about specific fisheries. In this way we can be real partners in co-management; not just more adversaries at the table arguing allocation.
In the end, DFO must enforce the fishery overall, and look out for conservation. They should support us when we work together and not try to lead us in other directions. Local negotiations can be highly successful if the regulations are clear and conservation comes first. Then DFO can enforce with all of our blessings.
My point about the Crown assuming responsibility should be clear enough. The treaties were signed by the Crown, not the local commercial fishermen. We want to try to accommodate the Native peoples, but everyone knows too well that no fishery can withstand additional effort right now. In my area it was the fishermen who realised that there was a problem in the lobster fishery and that we had to do something. So the fishermen in Sydney Bight voted 75% in favour of increasing the minimum size lobster we could take in order to conserve the stocks. This happened before the then-Minister Anderson decreed the need to double egg production in each lobster fishing area. Our fishermen already knew we had to do something, and had done it ourselves.
Clearly then, the only way that the commercial fishery can accommodate new effort is to transfer it through a voluntary buyout of commercial licences. And the Crown should assume that responsibility to provide the funds for the buyout. Fishermen have been hit hard enough in recent years with more costs and fees then you'd have time to hear about today.
I hope that I have addressed some of the questions that you have raised and look forward to more discussion on this topic. We all know that the road ahead will not be easy, and that it is too easy to be derailed from the track of progress. But we have to try, and we mustn't be misled by individuals. This is where the community focus is so necessary.
President, Local 6, Maritime Fishermen's Union
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,
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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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,
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by Daniel P. Bernier
Canadian Council of Professional
Coastal fish harvesters are always the first to notice the decline of fish stocks and are first to raise the alarm. As stocks collapse around the world, they are asking when it will all stop. When will they be listened to?
Last year, their representatives met in India to found the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fishworkers, an international solidarity network dedicated to protecting the world's wild fisheries and the coastal communities that depend on them for their livelihoods. The delegates to the World Forum also declared November 21 as World Fisheries Day, a day to press for changes in fisheries management the world over.
The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters a founding member of the World Forum will be holding a National Forum on the future of fisheries management in Canada to observe World Fisheries Day. Its purpose is to bring together fish harvester representatives from across the country for three days (November 21st to 23rd) so that they can outline their vision of how Canada's fisheries should be managed.
A new vision is desperately needed. On the Pacific coast, licencing changes that forced specialization on small boat harvesters a decade ago are now pushing them out of the fishery entirely. On the Atlantic coast, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' focus on specialist and corporate fleets for their initial partnership agreements has raised the spectre of fisheries privatization.
The Forum will be an opportunity for fish harvesters to examine the current Canadian management regime to identify what works, and what doesn't. The Council is also hoping that fishing communities will show their concern about the state of Canadian fisheries management by organizing local World Fisheries Day activities.
Under the theme of "For the survival of our fisheries and communities," the Council will be working with local schools to produce bright orange "survival" banners. They will be flown from the masts of boats and car antennas to draw attention to the emergency situation facing our fisheries.
For information on how you and your community can participate in World Fisheries Day, please contact the Council at:
71 Bank Street,
Suite 700, Ottawa, Ontario.
phone: (613) 235-3474,
fax: (613) 231-4313,
or visit its Website at: http://www.ccpfh-ccpp.org.
Arthur Bull is active with the Fundy Fixed Gear Council and also serves as Chair of the Coastal Communities Network. He was among those in New Delhi last year for the founding of the World Forum, and he is now looking forward to attending the National Forum in Ottawa this fall. He believes it will provide "a great opportunity for Nova Scotia's inshore fishermen and their communities to stand up and show their solidarity with their counterparts around the world." He also thinks that the World Forum could become "the main vehicle for a global coalition in years to come."
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