Thursday, August 05, 2010

Yet another tough season for commercial fishermen

Seems we see these articles every year....some years the 'disaster'touted is worse than others, but the theme always seems to be the same: give us a major bailout.

You might have to agree with the point that other occupations or industries get bailed out all the time...why not fishermen? Just think of farmers....they get assistance constantly for too much rain or too little rain causing crop failure. But, commercial fishermen dont tend to be served with the same govenment largesse anymore. Is this because their problems are chronic, repetitive, constant ones or does the government just not care about supposed 'sunset' industries...not wanting to throw good money after bad so to speak..?

One item to take issue with is the assertion 'only' 295 of 650 gillnetters bothered to fish the opening on July 26...This is just a tad misleading as year after year lately only about 300 gillnetters actively fish. The rest of the 650 just license their boat, presumably to keep in the DFO buyout lottery that might happen sometime in the future. Plus, from a Union position it just sounds better if there are alot of active fishermen.

Maybe DFO and the Federal Government are just letting attrition change the landscape of the fishing fleet on the north coast? The demographic of most gillnetters is beyond middle-aged with not too many young folks ready to buy into a dying occupation. Maybe DFO is just waiting all these 55-65 year old guys out...? This way you dont require massive amounts of bailout money or retraining funding.....

Prince Rupert councillor pushing for disaster relief in the wake of disastrous fishing season

By Shaun Thomas - The Northern View

Updated: July 27, 2010 12:59 PM
City councillor and United Fishermen and Allied Worker’s Union spokesperson Joy Thorkelson put her fellow councillors on notice that she intends to have a serious discussion about the economic outlook for the community following a disastrous fishing on the North Coast.

The poor fishing season is being felt both on the water and in the processing plants, and Thorkelson said the impacts of this season could be felt for quite some time in Prince Rupert, Port Edward and First Nations villages throughout the region.

“It’s pretty desperate to try and keep your boat afloat. Up to today the average seine boat gross income, before fuel and before expenses, was $1,000,” she said, noting that only 295 of 650 gillnetters and 23 of 107 seine boats took part in the July 26 opening on the Skeena River.

“I don’t know a fisherman on the North Coast who is insuring his vessel, for example. If we start losing vessels than even if you have a big run you can’t catch it if the infrastructure is gone.”

And the lack of fish being caught on the water is translating into very few hours for those who work in the fish processing plants around town, with the number seven person on the Canadian Fish seniority list having just 390 hours and the number 100 person on the list, up to a seniority date of 30 years, having worked just seven days this season.

“Last summer we had a huge payroll every two weeks, and this year it is miniscule,” she said, adding that it is a similar situation at Ocean Fish but McMillan may be doing better because of their groundfish supply.

“Our canneries run on pink salmon and the pink salmon are coming in as poorly as predicted, and that is very poor. I don’t know how the canneries are going to maintain any financial income this year. We are trying to talk them into doing pollock or hake starting in September or August, but if those fish don’t show then you can’t process them and we’re not really a high Pollock or hake area.”

Given the potential impact of such a season, Thorkelson said she sees a need for the Federal or Provincial Governments to step in with disaster assistance as they do when drought or heavy rain hits the farming industry or cold weather impacts fruit crops in the Okanagan.

“I don’t know what kind of pitch we can make to provincial and federal governments, but they can’t just continue to walk away from coastal communities and say it is not an issue that the government can deal with when they deal with peach failures and droughts in other parts of the country but not deal with fishery failures,” she said.

“There is always hope, but we shouldn’t let the provincial or federal government not hear from us…We need to do something about it, we can’t just sit back and not bring this to their attention.”

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