Nfld. & Labrador

FISH-NL VP's hunger strike in front of DFO in St. John's enters fourth day

The vice-president of FISH-NL is entering the fourth day of his hunger strike in front of the DFO building in St. John's.

'We haven't heard anything from him at all,' says Richard Gillett

FISH-NL vice-president Richard Gillett has entered the fourth day of his hunger strike. (Anna Delaney/CBC)

Easter Sunday marks the fourth day of Richard Gillett's hunger strike.

The vice-president of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) set up camp in front of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans headquarters in St. John's on Thursday.

One of Gillett's requests is a meeting with Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, to ask for an independent review of science and management at DFO.

"Up until right now we haven't heard anything from Minister LeBlanc," Gillett said.

"We haven't heard anything from him at all."

The other request is an independent review of the relationship between DFO and the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union. Gillett says the FFAW doesn't represent the majority of fishermen.

FISH-NL is ​a group of fishermen trying to break away from FFAW. The group is seeking to be ratified as the bargaining agent for the province's fish harvesters.

Gillett has been camping outside DFO in St. John's since Thursday. (Anna Delaney/CBC)

Gillett said he thinks the fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador is close to extinction.

"This industry is very, very close to dying. Very close. And I'm not about to let it die on my watch. That's why I'm on this bank today with a hunger strike to try to save this fishery," he said.

"Five hundred years of history and tradition of Newfoundland and Labrador that I'm trying to save."

Gillett said he has received support from across the country, with people coming to visit him at his campsite and reaching out to him via social media.

"The support has been fantastic. The public, the fish harvesters coming by and talking to me and bringing me water and offering me coffee — I won't drink any coffee and that, it's a water diet only — but social media and Facebook and everything, open line [shows], the support's been unbelievable," he said.

The most common thing people have been saying to him is it's about time someone stood up for the fishery, Gillett said. 

"I think every renewable resource needs science, and I think we'd be fools to go fishing without science," he said.

"But, we need a review of science. We know that they're really underpaid, underresourced. So we need to get at the bottom, basic things and bring back science so we can stop this slippery slope that we're on and start building a future in this fishery again."