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Fish Harvesters Desperate For Same Support Received By Farming And Forestry Workers

CAMPBELL RIVER, Feb 28, 2022 - Pacific Region fish harvesters are suffering the most decimating set of closures in BC commercial fishing history with zero emergency or transitional supports in place.   

Despite nearly $360 million dedicated to current emergency and transitional support for forestry and agriculture workers impacted by climate change and new environmental policies, BC fish harvesters impacted by these same factors are being entirely overlooked and ignored.   

In 2021, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) announced the closures of 79 salmon fisheries as part of the Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative (PSSI). A new approach to Pacific herring management that will see “most commercial fisheries for Pacific herring closed” was also announced last month. 

DFO attributes the closures to conservation concerns, but conservation policies brought on by environmental concerns are not unique to the fishing industry.  

As new restrictions on harvesting old-growth forests are implemented, significant support has been dedicated to helping forestry workers. This includes the addition of nearly $19 million for the remainder of 2021-22 to “provide enhanced supports to eligible workers, contractors and communities as deferrals are implemented” plus a freshly announced $112 million in “compensation for forestry workers, retraining and retirement bridging.” Within this package, forestry workers over the age of 55 displaced by old-growth deferrals are eligible to receive $75,000 as part of the government’s Bridging to Retirement Program.  

BC farmers impacted by recent flooding tied to climate change were provided with $228 million as part of the Flood Recovery for Food Security Program — the largest recovery program of its kind in provincial history — in a government commitment to food security the fishing industry has yet to see.   

BC’s fishing industry provides access to a local, traceable, and sustainably-caught wild food source — access to which has become increasingly important with focus on food security. Many fish harvesters, shore workers and coastal communities are suffering financial devastation as fisheries are dismantled and livelihoods are stripped away.  Yet fish harvesters have received $0 in government support, with no signs of help in sight.   

“The UFAWU applauds the government’s support of our sister industries, and the commitment shown to ensure forestry and agriculture workers are able to persevere through the challenges of adaptation and transition,” UFAWU-Unifor President James Lawson says.

“While our pleas for support funding for displaced fish harvesters continue to go unanswered, forestry and agriculture workers are being rescued by exactly the kind of funding programs our Industry so desperately needs.”

For more information or to schedule an interview with a spokesperson, please contact UFAWU-Unifor Communications Organizer Liam Hill-Allan at communications@ufawu.org.  

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