Nfld. & Labrador

FFAW vows to stop oil and gas exploration in crab fishing area

'If we've got to do it we'll go out with our vessels and we'll get in the way,' says a union executive member.

'If we've got to do it, we'll go out with our vessels and we'll get in the way,' says union exec

Fish, Food and Allied Workers president Keith Sullivan says fishermen should be consulted before the offshore oil regulator allows oil companies to explore prime fishing areas. (Todd O'Brien/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's largest fishermen's union says oil companies shouldn't be able to explore in some of the province's most productive crab fishing areas — and members will stop them if necessary.

"We are not going to stand by and let someone take our livelihood," said Fish Food and Allied Workers executive board member Nelson Bussey, who has fished for 43 years, on Thursday.

"We've put too much into this. It's our life, it's our industry and we're not going to stand by. If we've got to do it, we'll go out with our vessels and we'll get in the way."

Fishermen say the CNLOPB shouldn't allow oil and gas exploration in one of the best crab fishing areas. The area is just one of the regions the board may open for companies to bid on. (CBC)

Last week the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) issued a call for nominations, asking oil companies which areas they'd be interested in bidding on.

Union wants process halted

One area sits just north east of the existing Hibernia and Hebron off shore oil structures, but it also covers one of the most productive areas of the 3L crab fishing area.

Fishermen are concerned that if oil wells are developed in the area large parts of it could be closed to fishing.

The FFAW said it wasn't consulted by government or the offshore regulator before the decision was made to open the area, and it's demanding the bidding process be halted.

Nelson Bussey, who has been fishing for 43 years, says he and other crab fishermen will actively stop oil and gas exploration on prime fishing grounds. (Peter Cowan/CBC)

"Time after time oil and gas has been put ahead of the fishery," said FFAW president Keith Sullivan.

"At no time were these harvesters consulted about how these further developments would impact their future and their livelihoods."

An oil well is still far from a sure thing. If this area is included in the areas open to bidding, that doesn't stop fishing. Oil companies would have to commit to spending money on exploration and would have to go through another environmental assessment process and get provincial and federal approvals in order to go into production.

In a statement, the C-NLOPB said "issues of common interest are discussed regularly with these parties, and C-NLOPB staff are open and forthcoming in providing information about land tenure initiatives and potential long-term plans."

Other 3L areas have already been awarded to oil companies, but this latest section represents some of the best areas to catch crab. says the union

Unlike other crab areas where the stock is diminishing and quotas have been cut, this area is healthy, and union members say about half of their catch comes from the area.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.


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