Fishermen shocked by DFO manipulation on herring

Sonia - March 1, 2014

Interesting press press release (below) about the herring fishery. Shaun and several of our other CSF fishermen are some of the 250 fishermen getting ready to go out and fish herring.

They have already paid substantial amounts of money for the right to fish (quota, etc.) which will end up being about half of their total revenue. If they can’t fish, they risk losing huge sums of money.

The press release also mentions how fishermen are being forced to pay hefty fees for scientific assessments that used to be covered by the DFO, while processors pay nothing and continue to set lower prices for fishermen and higher prices for consumers.

Fishermen shocked by DFO manipulation on herring: DFO tell fishermen stocks ok, tell minister not to fish


Vancouver, BC – Fishermen have just learnt that the DFO recommended to the Minister not to open three herring fishing areas next month, while months earlier telling fishermen stocks were recovered and could be fished. This federal flip flop only came to light because of an injunction granted late last week to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council to stop the herring fishery in their traditional territory.

As a result the UFAWU-Unifor is recommending to all herring fishermen not to fish in the two other areas under dispute: the Central Coast and the Haida Gwaii areas.

Fishermen are totally frustrated with federal decision making around fisheries – as are First Nations; we are all being used and abused with opaque DFO decision making. In early January the federal government told fish processing companies, the companies that own and control the majority of herring licences, that they would have to come up with $500,000 to prosecute this year’s herring roe fishery. These funds would go to pay for scientific herring stock assessment work traditionally paid for by the federal government. Fish processing companies agreed amongst themselves to download these costs directly to active fishermen – they would collect a $25/ton fee directly from fishermen, ensuring the federal download would be completely transparent to them.

The British Columbia herring roe fisheries (roe on kelp, herring gillnet and herring seine) operate yearly from the end of February to early April. British Columbia’s herring stocks have been categorized into five major stocks, and multiple minor and local stocks. The fisheries target the major stocks, and areas are closed where minor and local stocks are known to spawn.

At the heart of the herring fishery are 250 independent fishermen. These fishermen are currently hiring crews, building and repairing nets and preparing vessels for the fishery. They run small businesses and make substantial investments in these operations. They operate out of coastal communities and are being increasingly marginalized by fisheries management policies in British Columbia that favour large corporations.

Part of the problem with fisheries policies in British Columbia is that active fishermen and adjacent communities no longer own or control the majority of fishing licences, rather fishermen have to lease licences from processing companies to prosecute the fishery, and adjacent communities are left completely in the cold. These companies have been charging fishermen millions of dollars per year to lease herring licences. On top of this they set the price paid for herring (In 2011 when fishermen saw a 79% drop in landed value, processing companies increased their wholesale margin by 310% on landed value. Source BC-YIR 2011), and now they are sticking fishermen with the stock assessment fees.

Federal policy dictates that they consult with licence holders who control advisory bodies; consultations with active fishermen and adjacent communities are secondary at best. Yet “It was in the name of the small coastal communities and the small fishermen who could not compete with the foreign fishing fleets that we argued successfully with the rest of the world that Canada should manage the 200-mile zone.” Fisheries Minister R. LeBlanc told the House of Commons in 1979 shortly after making the 200nm claim.

These fisheries policies appear to support abuse of a dominant position, supposedly illegal under Canada’s Competitions Act. Current Pacific fishery policy favours multinational corporations instead of fishermen and adjacent communities and are in dire need of an overhaul. On Canada’s Atlantic coast a federal fleet separation policy prevents fish processing companies from owning or controlling fishing licences. The policies on Canada’s Pacific need to be changed to protect small fisheries businesses from abusive practices from multinational corporations.

The UFAWU-Unifor was created by fishermen and shoreworkers in 1945 to represent their interests, and amalgamated with the CAW and CEP into Unifor in 2013. With over 1000 members the UFAWU is the largest organization representing fisheries workers in British Columbia. Unifor, with over 300,000 members, is the largest private sector union in Canada.

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For more information:
Kim Olsen, President UFAWU-Unifor, Cell 604-836-5570 Office 604-519-3630

Sonia - March 1, 2014

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Fishermen shocked by DFO manipulation on herring

Sonia - March 1, 2014

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