FISH-NL vice-president starts hunger strike outside DFO headquarters

Richard Gillett wants reviews of fishery science and management and relationship between FFAW and DFO    

Published on April 13, 2017

FISH-NL vice-president and Twillingate fisherman Richard Gillett started a hunger strike at the entrance to the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre on White Hills Road Thursday. He says he’ll stay camped out there for as long as it takes to get a meeting with federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Dominic LeBlanc and reviews of both the science and management of Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries and the relationship between the FFAW-Unifor and the DFO.

©Kenn Oliver/The Telegram

Unlike most Newfoundlanders, Richard Gillett won’t be enjoying a feed of fried fish on Good Friday.

And it’s not for a lack of available cod . In fact, Gillett suggests the stock plentiful enough to support a more prosperous groundfish industry in this province.

I need to take this stand and I need to get this fishery back on track again. Harvesters like myself we need it. Me personally, I'm no good to nobody if I can't fish. That's what I was born for. That's what I was bred for. If I can't do that, I'm no good to wife, I'm no good to my family, I'm no good to nobody.

Richard Gillett

Effective Thursday afternoon, the vice-president of Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) started a hunger strike during which time he’ll stay camped out in a tent beneath the sign for the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre on White Hills Road.

“I'm confident that I'm going to stay here until we do accomplish it. I'm mentally prepared to stay here for as long as it takes,” says Gillett, a fisherman Twillingate and formerly a star of the Discovery Canada’s reality television series “Coldwater Cowboys.”

“I need to take this stand and I need to get this fishery back on track again. Harvesters like myself we need it. Me personally, I'm no good to nobody if I can't fish. That's what I was born for. That's what I was bred for. If I can't do that, I'm no good to wife, I'm no good to my family, I'm no good to nobody.”

Gillett and FISH-NL have two goals in mind with the hunger strike.

First and foremost, they are asking for a meeting with federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans during which they’ll ask for an independent review of the science and management of all Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries.

At a series of meetings on six different species he attended last week, the message from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was all the stocks were at a critical level. But Gillett says what’s being reported isn’t what fishermen are seeing on the water.

“There's fish there, we've never ever seen fish like it before. The fish are overrunning our crab grounds, eating our shrimp, eating our crab and we're still at one-third the level that they'd like to see.

“If you're managing a resource for the last 25 or 30 years and it's come down so far as where it is,  b'y  you're not managing it very good. That's why we're calling for an independent review.”

The second thing Gillett hopes to accomplish is to have independent review of the relationship between the Fish Food and Allied Workers union and the DFO.

“We can't really tell the difference anymore,” says Gillett. “The lines are blurred.

“We talk to DFO and they say call FFAW, you call FFAW they say call DFO. So it seems like the DFO won't do anything until the FFAW says to do it.”

Members of FISH-NL just returned from Ottawa where they met with Members of Parliament from this province and submitted a proposal. In an effort to maintain full transparency, that proposal was set to be posted on their website Thursday evening.

“I challenge the FFAW to do the same,” says Gillett. “Put online what they presented in Ottawa.”

Gillett’s hunger strike comes on the heels of a protest by 50 shrimp harvesters at DFO offices last Friday. He says that’s a good indication at how desperate the situation is for Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen.

“They've always been known as a bit passive and quiet and that should tell everybody something.”

Gillett says something needs to be done to fix the fishery sooner rather than later.

“We've been seven or eight years just barely keeping our heads above water in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery in the areas of 4R, 2J, 3K and 3PS, we haven't got years to hang. 

“They just put out 50 species on the critical list in NL. They should have put 51. The inshore fish harvesters.”

kenn.oliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter: kennoliver79