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The fishermen of Newfoundland and Labrador insist that their fishing quotas should be higher. (Photo: YouTube, TheFFAW/osl.gc.ca)

Fishers protest quotas, DFO offices close

  (CANADA, 6/3/2011)

Some 100 western Newfoundland fishers have been protesting groundfish quotas outside of federal fishery department offices in Corner Brook this week. The protest originally began last month, when fishers took over the offices of that same building.

The fishers did not get inside when they returned to surround the edifice this week. Regardless, the building’s government workers were sent home and the offices closed.

Food, Fish and Allied Workers (FFAW) union leader and spokesperson Dave Decker said the government is getting in the way of fishers’ livelihoods by restraining quotas for catches of halibut, turbot, and cod, VOCM reports.

What fishers want is a restoration of historic quota levels and a retirement scheme backed by government assistance for some of FFAW’s members, Decker explained, as they also understand the need for fish conservation.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), he said, has been allotting more of the quota to the Maritime provinces while taking it away from Newfoundlanders, reports The Canadian Press.

"This is a decision made by faceless bureaucrats, basically, in Ottawa and a minister who knows nothing about these people, nothing about their communities," Decker said. "And yet they have taken action which has jeopardized our livelihoods — and not only their livelihoods but the future of their communities."

Officials from the union are referring to the event as a peaceful protest. Union members from as far south as Burnt Islands in southwestern Newfoundland and the Northern Peninsula made their way to Corner Brook.

The protest serves to show support for FFAW President Earle McCurdy, who has gone to Ottawa to meet with Newfoundland and Labrador’s (NL) regional Minister Peter Penashue and officials from DFO. McCurdy is attempting to convince them that the decisions made about halibut and turbot quotas are mistaken, according to Decker, reports CBC News.

Fishers say the quotas in their areas should have been more generous.

FFAW’s Bill Broderick said Newfoundland’s quotas for halibut and turbot continue to fall and that the previous allocation of 45 to 50 per cent of the total allowable catch (TAC) for halibut has now plunged to about 20 per cent. 

Moreover, a smaller group of fishers is demonstrating in Port au Choix on the west side of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. The fisheries department has closed its offices there too.

Decker said if DFO fails to address their concerns, the protest will continue and he expects the number of protesting fishers to escalate.

DFO has not determined when it will reopen its offices.

Related articles:

- NL shrimpers angry at proposed cuts 
- Deal reached on lobster prices 


By Natalia Real
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