A top government official is speaking out against a long-awaited report on Newfoundland and Labrador's fishery that calls for massive cuts to the industry.

The report, prepared by an independent committee and released Friday, recommends changes such as slashing inshore fishing fleets by up to 80 per cent.

Speaking with reporters Friday morning, Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman criticized the report, saying he will not endorse it for cabinet.

The report by the Steering Committee for Fishing Industry Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was released by the province, and proposes a restructuring that would include:

  • 30-80 per cent reduction in inshore fleets. Biggest reductions along northeast coast and southern Labrador,
  • Up to 50 per cent reduction in nearshore fleets. Biggest reductions along northeast coast and southern Labrador.
  • 30% reduction in crab and shrimp plants (by volume).
  • $450-million cost to achieve the cuts.

The report was prepared by Prof. Tom Clift of Memorial University's faculty of business administration. He has served as the independent chair of the steering committee since its creation in August 2009.

Jackman said he is disappointed with the report, and the $450-million cost recommended to implement the changes is too high, adding that he will not support it until the industry and the union come up with a long-term restructuring plan that goes beyond simple downsizing.

"This seems to be asking for a pot of money to take so many people out and then where are we? We are basically back to where we started," the minister said.

The report recommends spending that money to buy out commercial fishing licences and compensate fish processors affected by the cuts. It said that money isn't for compensating fish processing plant workers who would lose their jobs if the recommended cuts were made.

But the head of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, Earle McCurdy, calls Jackman's reaction unsettling, noting that if the province dismisses the report, it is essentially dismissing the industry.

"If the two levels of government wash their hands of this as it relates to the issue of capacity and rationalization then the last 18 months will have turned out to be a colossal waste of my time and a whole lot of other people's time," he said.

Jackman said there is no next step for the government. Instead he is putting the onus back on the union and the processors to come up with a solution.