Dear Editor: Ice conditions faced by the inshore fishing industry are the worst seen in 25 years, resulting in a delayed season that is cutting off the income for those trying to make a living. And yet government still has no plan in place to negotiate a deal with their federal counterparts to provide compensation.
Government’s lack of initiative in this matter is truly baffling as there is a clear precedent for such compensation.
In 2007, the federal government provided an aid program of $7.9 million to about 5,100 people.
Each fisherman received $377 for each week they were eligible, enough to see them through the delay before they could get back to work.
No one in this unfortunate situation is asking for a handout.
They simply want the same short-term emergency aid that has been provided before.
Meanwhile, as government continues to drag its heels in this matter, it’s the families affected that will suffer.
Workers and their families, local business owners and community groups are all feeling the economic fallout and many simply have no other options. In fact, the only suggested option for crab harvesters coming from the federal government is the possibility of extending the season. DFO Minister Gail Shea has extended the season in some areas, but it will do little to nothing for harvesters faced with soft shell crab.
In fact, two grids in Bonavista Bay have already been shut down because of soft shell. What good is an extended season if some harvesters will never get a chance to catch crab at all this season due to soft shell restrictions?
I have been persistent in questioning the minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture several times on this issue, but my concerns have not been heard, neither have the concerns of harvesters and plant workers.
As government is refusing to give any real answers here, several members of the Official Opposition caucus have contacted the minister of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa directly to ask for the reinstatement of the 2007 Ice Compensation Program.
We hope that the response we receive is more timely and positive than what we have heard from our own government.
Sam Slade, opposition critic for Fisheries and Aquaculture, MHA Carbonear–Harbour Grace