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FISH-NL supporters blaming DFO closure of Fortune Bay cod fishery on FFAW

Grand Bank fisherman Wayne Meade.
Grand Bank fisherman Wayne Meade. - File photo

FORTUNE BAY, NL – A Grand Bank fisherman says the recent closure of the cod fishery near Pass Island in Fortune Bay is payback against supporters of the Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL).

In a news release from FISH-NL on Tuesday, Dec. 12, Wayne Meade said he believes the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor) union were behind the decision made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to shut down the fishery.

Most inshore harvesters who were fishing there are FISH-NL supporters, he claimed.

“This was not a DFO decision because DFO doesn’t run the fishery, and hasn’t since the moratorium — the FFAW calls the shots,” Meade, who has publicly endorsed FISH-NL since its inception in the fall of 2016, said.

“Eighty to 90 per cent of the fishermen who were fishing that cod support FISH-NL, and it’s the FFAW getting back at us.”

DFO issued a notice to harvesters Dec. 8 that the directed gill net cod fishery near Pass Island would close at noon the following day. DFO said it considered the closure a short-term measure to address “quality concerns.”

Meade and inshore harvesters like him — who spent thousands of dollars gearing up for the fishery, and on licence fees/observer coverage — say they were told those quality concerns involve the discarding or dumping of fish.

“I’ve been on the water for 40 years and I’ve never seen a fishery shut down because of the dumping of fish,” said Meade.

Meade said the dumping of halibut hasn’t been an issue for DFO since 2008, when licence conditions began stating that the fish had to be dumped back to sea, dead or alive.

DFO said it considered the shut down of the cod fishery near Pass Island a short-term measure, with plans to re-evaluate the decision in seven to 10 days, putting the reopening just before Christmas.

That means the fishery won’t actually reopen until after the holiday season, the FISH-NL news release suggested, as harvesters will want to spend time at home with family.

FISH-NL said it wrote DFO late last week requesting the decision to close the directed fishery for cod using gill nets near Pass Island be reversed immediately.

DFO has yet to respond, the FISH-NL news release stated.

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