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OPSEU demands government reverse its decision to privatize commercial fishery inspections

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is raising the alarm about a decision to privatize the inspection of the commercial fishery on Lake Erie, saying it puts the fishery at risk.

“Can we really trust the commercial fishing industry to police itself?” asked Thomas. “History has shown over and over that while businesses are good at making money, they’re terrible at following rules designed to protect safety and sustainability.

“Walkerton. The Aylmer meat scandal. The Sunrise Propane explosion. They are all tragic stories about industry self-regulation gone wrong,” said Thomas. “It’s time to learn the lessons of the past so we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.”

The decision to privatize inspections comes at the same time that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has decided to reinstate the “Commercial Fishing Tote Program,” which allows commercial fishers to put their catches in large, sealed “totes” that are delivered straight to fish-processing plants, bypassing dock-side catch verifications by MNRF Port Observers and Conservation Officers.

Under the new tote program, the fish in the totes are inspected at the plants not by MNRF Port Observers or Conservation Officers but by the commercial fishing industry itself.

“It’s like putting the sharks in charge of the fish house,” said OPSEU Regional Vice-President Len Elliott. “The tote program is a good idea, but those catches still need to be inspected by trained and professional frontline MNRF staff who are motivated by safety and sustainability, not profits.”

“This is just another example of Conservative promises made, Conservative promises betrayed,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “When he was on the campaign trail, Doug Ford promised to bulk up the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Instead, he’s privatizing it.”

Thomas vowed to keep up the pressure until the Tote Program inspections are brought back in-house.

“Until the government reverses course, it’s basically telling the commercial fishing industry: you don’t have a license to fish, you have a license to steal,” said Thomas. “We’re not going to let them get away with it.”

For more information: OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931