Federal action urgently needed to support BC fishing communities

PRINCE RUPERT - Federal New Democrats will continue their push to bring fairness and sustainability to coastal BC fishing communities, said MPs Fin Donnelly (Port Moody-Coquitlam) and Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) in the wake of two days of hearings at the parliamentary fisheries committee this week.

“We are calling on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to act on what we’ve heard this week and prepare a report for the Minister that seeks immediate changes to the policies governing adjacency, fleet separation and owner/operator fish licenses, so that BC fish resources benefit BC families,” said Donnelly, NDP critic for Fisheries and Oceans.

"Made-in-Ottawa policies have been devastating North Coast BC communities," added Cullen from Prince Rupert.  "Mr. Trudeau promised that his government would be different. It's time for him to prove it."

The committee heard powerful testimony from North Coast fish plant workers and union representatives who called for swift action from the federal government to save North Coast fishing communities by implementing adjacency, fleet separation and owner-operator principles on the West Coast as they are in Eastern Canada.

The principle of adjacency calls for priority of access to be granted to those closest to the fishery resource. Conrad Lewis, vice president of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union (UFAWU) Local 31 told the committee it has an opportunity “to stand by our people, all First Nations, and enforce a rule that has always existed here amongst us, here on the coast of B.C. That rule is, again, adjacency."

Fish workers also drove home to committee members how the growing concentration of fishing licenses under the control of a handful of international corporations has led to the collapse of a robust and proud tradition and economy on the North Coast.

"This committee must understand those licences were passed down from generation to generation, from father to son, from grandfather to grandson, that fish caught in the north was always delivered here in the north. Now that the companies own the boats, the big boats, the seine boats, they own the licences and they own the quota, that history is lost," said Arnold Nagy, president of UFAWU Local 31.

"I think this committee must take it to heart that you have the chance to save what is left of the fishing industry here in the north."

The NDP supports the proposal by the UFAWU to create an independent committee to travel to BC coastal communities to talk with local governments, commercial fishers and plant workers about how to support this crucial BC industry.

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Contact:        Shelley Browne, 250-877-4140; nathan.cullen.c1@parl.gc.ca