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Fisheries and Aquaculture
June 17, 2009

Province Willing to Eliminate Licensing Fees if Industry Reaches Agreement

The Provincial Government has advised representatives of the seafood harvesting and processing sectors that it will forego processing licence fees for the 2009 fishing season if the two groups can reach an agreement on the price of shrimp for this year. This represents $1.7 million in value to the industry.

The Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, announced the reduction yesterday in a meeting with representatives of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW), Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) and Seafood Producers of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The minister also announced that the department would be willing to undertake a financial analysis of the industry and entertain industry proposals on seafood marketing.

"Our priority as a government is fixing the major structural issues in the fishing industry over the long-term," said Minister Hedderson. "However, we also recognize that this is a difficult year for the industry and our immediate concern has to be achieving a resumption of the shrimp fishery during the 2009 season, to ensure people are working. As we have already announced, our government will also be there for workers who have trouble qualifying for Employment Insurance at the end of the season, if necessary. As well, we maintain our commitment to fund 30 per cent of the cost of rationalizing the fishing industry over the long-term."

The department also told industry representatives that it is prepared to work with the FFAW and processors to do a financial analysis to document the problems that the harvesting and processing sectors are experiencing during this very challenging time. The Provincial Government is prepared to do a financial audit of these sectors over the last five years to assess their viability. This is a necessary step to determining the actions required to better position the industry to deal with future challenges. As well, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture continues to be open to proposals from industry on how to better market the province�s seafood in the global marketplace.

"Unfortunately, the level of financial difficulty in the fishery has not been well documented," said the minister. "We must verify the situation before proceeding during this time of fiscal restraint. However, we also understand that the fishery is a critical industry for rural Newfoundland and Labrador and we are committed to further understanding the structural issues within the industry."

The minister has also written the federal Minister Gail Shea to ask that Fisheries and Oceans Canada forego licensing fees at the federal level. The provincial department will also continue to pursue federal participation in a restructuring and rationalization of the province�s fishing industry, keeping in mind that the harvesting of seafood is a federal area of jurisdiction.

"Our government put forward a vision of addressing the long-term structural issues in the fishing industry with the Fishing Industry Renewal Strategy," said Minister Hedderson. "Our vision continues to be one of a fishery that includes larger and fewer vessels that fish for longer periods throughout the year in all fleet sectors and processing plants that employ workers for longer periods of time."

The Williams Government has tripled the budget for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture since 2005 and has a total undertaking of up to $140 million in relation to the Fishing Industry Renewal Strategy.

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Media contact:

Lori Lee Oates
Director of Communications
Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture
709-729-3733, 690-8403

2009 06 17                                                       1:30 p.m.

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