Former FISH-NL president forms new group to represent inshore fish harvesters

·2 min read
Ryan Cleary, seen here in 2016, has started a new group that aims to represent Newfoundland and Labrador's  licensed commercial inshore fish harvesters. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Ryan Cleary, seen here in 2016, has started a new group that aims to represent Newfoundland and Labrador's licensed commercial inshore fish harvesters. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Ryan Cleary, seen here in 2016, has started a new group that aims to represent Newfoundland and Labrador's  licensed commercial inshore fish harvesters.
Ryan Cleary, seen here in 2016, has started a new group that aims to represent Newfoundland and Labrador's licensed commercial inshore fish harvesters.(Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Sixteen months after his former union's certification drive fell apart, Ryan Cleary has started a new organization that he says wants to be an independent voice for the province's licensed commercial inshore fish harvesters.

In a media release Thursday, the Seafood Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador said it will represent the interests of only licensed owner-operators. As an association, says the release, SEA-NL won't need permission from the province's Labour Relations Board to organize and incorporate.

"Owner-operators are a distinct group within the province's fishing industry, and it's high time they were recognized as such," said SEA-NL organizer Cleary in the release.

"The fish harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador must realize how much power they would have if they came together. No government, no union, no companies could stop them. Owner-operators should be leading their own industry, and a strong organization with a collective voice like SEA-NL could achieve that goal."

Right now, fish harvesters are represented by the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union. In 2019, the second bid by Cleary's Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters Newfoundland and Labrador for certification fell short after falling well short of the 4,000 signatures needed to trigger a vote on whether it should be the union that represents inshore fishermen in the province. The union was dissolved.

SEA-NL says it's planning to incorporate as a not-for-profit corporation, followed by consultations and sign-ups of owner-operators around the province. From there, SEA-NL said, it will set up a volunteer board of directors, set membership fees and establish an office with staff.

The group says it will also gather information from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other government departments to communicate regulations, industry news and other information to members.

"SEA-NL's primary mission will be to support fish harvesters, advocate for healthy fisheries, and strengthen fishing communities," said Merv Wiseman, a former fisherman and organizer, in the release.

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