Nfld. & Labrador

Fishermen protest over fears of federal policy change

About 200 fishermen protested at DFO headquarters in St. John's Monday to voice their fears that Ottawa will cancel a policy that keeps big companies out of the inshore fishery.

Worries abound that Ottawa could change rules currently keeping big companies out of the inshore fishery

About 200 fishermen protested at DFO headquarters in St. John's Monday, expressing fears that Ottawa may end its fleet separation policy.

About 200 fishermen protested at DFO headquarters in St. John's Monday to voice their fears that Ottawa will cancel its fleet separation policy, which keeps big fishing companies out of the inshore fishery.

Fish, Food and Allied Workers union president Earle McCurdy led the protest.

Small-boat operator John Ralph says he is feeling left out of a DFO review process. (CBC)

"Fishing rights are not something you trade on the stock market, they're the legacy for coastal communities," McCurdy said.

DFO is currently holding consultations about the future of the fishery, but small-boat operators like John Ralph feel left out of the process.

Ralph says if the fleet separation policy is changed, it could spell the end of the traditional inshore fishery.

"There will be no fishery like we knew it now, and like our fathers and grandfathers knew it," Ralph said. "For 500 years, we've been here fishing."

The feds say fisheries workers have an opportunity to have their say, through what DFO calls "a new online engagement tool" on its website.

Meanwhile, Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield is defending the Harper government’s record on the fishery, saying Ottawa is working to ensure a sustainable future for the industry.

"However, in the absence of being able to create more fish in the sea, we must find ways to make the fishery more valuable, profitable and respectful of the resource for future generations," Ashfield said in a letter sent to media agencies.