By Corina Yates
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
After hearing provincial plants would not buy their lobster, the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union held meetings on April 22 in Marystown, Harbour Breton and Stephenville announcing plans to start its own co-op.
This decision was made after the news came from the Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador (SPONL), who represent the buyers, that its members cannot afford to pay the price set down by the provincial Fish Price Setting Panel.
According to Kevin Hardy, a lobster fisher from Burnt Islands, this is an idea whose time has come and it is going to be difficult to turn back the clock now.
“The idea is long overdue,” said Hardy. “It is hard to say how it is going to go at this point. Anything is possible with this.”
According to Mr. Hardy it might take a year or two depending on the fishers.
“Fishers are pretty pragmatic people and they are going to do what they have to do to keep bread on the table.” he said.
Hardy attended the meeting in Stephenville where himself and Andre Jesso from Port au Port were selected by the other fishers to be on the board of directors for the newly formed company.
“When you are backed into a corner, not being able to earn a livelihood, then all bets are off,” said Mr. Hardy.
According to Hardy his lobster landings so far this year are still up by 10 per cent, even with a 10 per cent cut in the number of traps he sets.
“It is usually like that the first few days, but where it goes after that is hard to say,” he said.
Hardy stated they would be selling their lobster to Fogo Island Coop, which is an existing co-op started by fishermen. The co-op has a processing plant.
According to Hardy, once the lobster is sold to them it is going to be transferred to Nova Scotia, which will all be done under the umbrella of the Fogo Island Co-op.
“Fishermen are going to want to earn their livelihood, they are going to want to sell their lobster at the highest price they can get with the l east amount of hassle,” he said. “Now for this year whoever provides that, that is probably where some of the lobster will go, but the fishermen co-op is not going away no matter what happens this year.”
According to Jesso, who was also named as director of the co-op, he will be sticking with the co-op no matter what the buyers decide to do.
“It is the only way right now,” he said. “We are gaining more support everyday from the fishers and the way it is going we will have 100 per cent. There are a lot of bugs to work out with this new co-op but all the fishers I have talked to are very patient with it and are going to stay with the co-op.”
Peter March from Felix Cove is on board with the new co-op and very positive about it.
“The buyers had their chance and they bled us long enough,” said Mr. March. “They bit off the hand that was feeding them.”
The newly formed co-op seems to be gaining momentum among the fishers, according to Everett Janes from Burnt Islands
“Everyone I talked to seems to be going along with the co-op,” said Janes. “This seems like the solution for us and I will be definitely staying with the co-op.”
Perry Savoury of Rose Blanche is also geared up and ready to go when the trucks come.
“I am all for the co-op,” he said. “At this point there is no other way to turn. No matter what the buyers decide to do I am sticking with the coop. For fishers who don’t decide to go the way of the co-op it could make it better for the ones who do stay with it.”
There was speculation that some buyers were thinking about buying. When John Osmond of Codroy Seafood was contacted he had no comment.
Nobody from Eric King Fisheries in Burnt Islands could be reached for comment at the time this story was written.