Nfld. & Labrador

FFAW calls for rejection of possible shutdown of south coast cod fishery

The union representing workers in Newfoundland and Labrador's fishery is calling for the rejection of a possible closure to the 3Ps cod fishery on Newfoundland's south coast. 

Thousands of people directly affected, says union president

Fish, Food & Allied Workers president Keith Sullivan says closing the cod fishery on Newfoundland's south coast would affect thousands of people. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

The union representing workers in Newfoundland and Labrador's fishery is calling for the rejection of a possible closure of the 3Ps cod fishery on Newfoundland's south coast, but Ottawa says no decisions have been made yet.

In a media release, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers called on federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to reject the mandate of a possible closure after a newly released Fisheries and Oceans Canada assessment indicated the biomass index increased in fishing area 3Ps and predicted further growth in 2021 for the cod stock. The FFAW also noted the DFO study found fishing mortality has been at "very low levels" due to reduced quotas for 3Ps.

The union said millions of dollars worth of cod is landed in the area every year, and inshore fish harvesters rely on cod to support their businesses. The 3Ps subdivision stretches from the eastern side of Placentia Bay, near the Avalon Peninsula, to Burgeo, on the island's southwest coast, as well as a small section controlled by St-Pierre-Miquelon. 

"There's so many people in that area that depend on the fishery. I mean, thousands of people directly, hundreds of enterprises. Some people don't have any other fisheries, and then there's plants like the one in Arnold's Cove that's cod only," union president Keith Sullivan told CBC News on Sunday.

"So the FFAW members certainly are not accepting a decision that's unnecessary and will do so much damage to people who have already sacrificed a lot with very low quotas already."

The FFAW also took aim at the the seal population along Newfoundland's south coast, saying it has grown to record levels. The seals in the area, part of a migration from Nova Scotia and Maine, eat large amounts of cod and spread parasites among the fish, said the union.

The FFAW also said there has been no effort by the federal government to limit seal predation on the cod stocks.

The FFAW is pre-emptively calling for the rejection of a closure to the 3Ps cod fishery.  (Hans-Petter Fjeld)

"The cuts that harvesters have already taken, 55 per cent last year, massive decreases in their catch than in previous years, and with the science we saw this year, we expected that there would be a status quo certainly and then carry on and assess this," Sullivan said.

"There's so many seals in these areas. There's about 365 islands around Burgeo and it's hard to go to many of these islands and rocks and not see seals on. That's not something that was there 20 years ago. This is the major problem in the area that's been ignored." 

In 2020, the 3Ps cod quota was set at 2,691 tonnes.

The union said a closure of the cod fishery would affect other fisheries, and result in related businesses closing, lower earnings, further rural outmigration, bankruptcies and a heavier reliance on provincial and federal support programs.

Decision to come

In statement to CBC News, the federal fisheries minister's office said, "The minister makes all fisheries management decisions based on the best available science, which currently shows that 3Ps cod is well below the limit reference point, with the spawning biomass declining this year."

"The Canada-France Advisory Committee will begin meetings this week, where Canada will negotiate an agreement with France (in respect of St-Pierre-Miquelon) for our co-managed stocks. The final fisheries management decision will be an outcome of these negotiations."

Sullivan said he believes Jordan is missing some important information necessary to make an informed decision. He said he has already spoken with Premier Andrew Furey and members of Parliament, including federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan.

"We've got to make sure that the minister gets the proper information. I think there can be a reasonable way forward here and the minister just got to get the facts," Sullivan said.

"First of all, they have to know how many people are relying on this resource. This impacts thousands of people, but also the science on this, the indicators weren't bad. Decisions got to be made with the best science available."

O'Regan told CBC News nothing has been finalized yet.

"No final decision has been made, and a decision would only be made with significant consultation with all interested parties," he said in an email.

The provincial Department of Fisheries said in an emailed statement that it "continues to advocate to the federal government that any management decisions pertaining to our key fish stocks must be grounded on fact-based reliable science."

"The effective and sustainable management of Newfoundland and Labrador's fishing industry has and will remain a top priority for government," reads the statement.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Heather Gillis

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