Harvesters not yet compensated for Fiona
By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
SOUTHWEST COAST — Due to Hurricane Fiona, some fish harvesters saw major equipment and infrastructure destroyed or washed away, along with a livelihood they had been working for decades. Sherry Glynn, Staff Representative with FFAW/Unifor (Fish, Food & Allied Workers), said that the losses are nothing short of disastrous.
“For most people that we filled out applications for, they have infrastructure losses. They’ve had losses of wharves, stages, slipways. So we have that category of losses, and there are some people who just sustained damage, but for the most part it seems like it was just a catastrophic loss,” said Glynn. “I found that is most of what we’ve seen on that end of things. The other part is the loss of fishing gear and equipment, all the things these guys need to make a living. Lobster pots, lobster haulers, all kinds of bait nets, lump nets, tubs of trawl, some motors, a small number of vessel losses, basically everything you can think of that it takes to earn a living from fishing, that’s what those guys are facing this year.”
Much of what was lost is gear that took years to acquire.
“It’s stuff that they’ve gathered up over a lifetime of fishing. A lot of these guys are in their 60’s. There’s some even in their 70’s, and there are some younger harvesters involved as well, but most of them are older and it’s stuff that they’ve gathered up, purchased over 40 years and more of fishing. The losses are just tremendous, and what a lot of guys say as we’re going through the inventory of their losses, is that they don’t know everything they’ve lost and won’t know until they go to put their hand on it in the spring and it’s not there,” said Glynn. “The fishing season is only a couple of months away for lobster, which is the main fishery for a lot of these guys, and until they start fishing, until they're getting their traps ready, getting their boat ready, a lot of it, they’re not even going to notice it’s gone until they go to use it and it’s not there. That’s when they will really realize everything that they’ve lost.”
The process of getting compensation for these harvesters began immediately after the storm subsided.
“We went out on October 3rd or 4th. That was our first trip out there, and in that week, in between when the hurricane struck and when we went out, that initial week we were working with the province to try and get some sort of a handle on what avenue of compensation would be available to these harvesters,” said Glynn. “We were back and forth with the Department of Justice and Public Safety, in particular their emergency services division, and we were working with them to figure out what compensation program was in place. They provided the application. They provided guidelines and some other information to help get us started. So we went out to the area and we had good contacts in the area with our members. And even during the hurricane our members were messaging and saying, ‘this is gone, that’s gone, we’re looking to be in a bad way,’ that kind of thing. So we had some idea of what we were facing and we worked with our members in the area to get good lists of who was impacted. We put word out of when we were going to be out there, where we were going to be set up, and we started meeting with people, meeting with our members, meeting with harvesters to fill out those applications and get that process started.”
Each individual applied for the same compensation through the Disaster Financial Assistance Program (DFAP), also called DFAA (Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements), and they applied under the small business branch of the program.
“That’s the program that we’re still working through, and that’s a program that administered by the provincial government, and it’s funded primarily by the federal government. So we submit all applications to the province. They’ve been our point of contact, but then they recoup 90 per cent of what they pay out from the federal government. The federal government set the guidelines for the program, documentation and all that, so it’s really a federal program that’s administered by the province,” explained Glynn.
Despite the quick action taken by FFAW, the harvesters have yet to receive a dime.
“It’s a process, and the last thing I want to do is paint the province and the people we’ve been working with in a poor light because, at this point, that would feel false. I think they’ve offered the best assistance they could and my sense of it is that, and I think this is true all around, not just for the fisheries side of it, we don’t have a lot of experience dealing with disasters of this scope,” said Glynn. “I think that is the biggest struggle. It’s just a learning curve, and our biggest hope is we can make our way through this in a way where harvesters are able to have a successful season and are compensated fully for their losses. I think the other part that we’re hoping for, and the province is receptive to this and they’re hopeful, is that moving forward this becomes a smoother process.”
With the opening of the lobster season fast approaching, the hope is compensation will arrive in time.
“If they don’t land any lobsters, they are facing a rough year.”
Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News