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The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has issued a statement in response to a hunger strike by fisherman Richard Gillett that has gone on for six days.

Gillett is demanding a meeting with federal fisheries minister Dominic LeBlanc to discuss problems in the inshore fishery.

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) recognizes the right of individuals to protest and voice their positions in a reasonable manner,” DFO said. “It is of course concerning when anyone takes a course of action such as the one Mr. Gillett is pursuing, and we share the public’s concern for his health.

“‎We understand that this is a difficult time for the fish harvesters and communities affected by recent fisheries management decisions, and we are always willing to listen to and work with them.

“The Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Dominic LeBlanc, has been kept apprised of the situation in Newfoundland and Labrador, and ‎of Mr. Gillett’s actions in recent days.

“Yesterday, senior regional officials had a substantive meeting with Mr. Gillett and Mr. (Ryan) Cleary. They constructively and respectfully discussed a wide range of issues.

“Fisheries management decisions are made in a transparent manner. Fish harvesters sit at the table with our scientists when reviewing the state of fish stocks, and the results of science assessments are shared publicly. Budget 2016 made an investment of $197M over five years in oceans and freshwater science, allowing the creation of 18 new research positions in Newfoundland and Labrador alone. This is allowing us to conduct more ecosystems research and improve our stock assessments on commercial species.

“Our fisheries management decisions are evidence-based, and their ultimate goal is to conserve our important public resources so that they are available now and for future generations of Canadian fishers. In making these decisions, we consider all relevant information, including science advice that is in keeping with the Precautionary Approach, as well as social and economic factors. We have a robust consultation process that hears the views and opinions of representatives from all sectors of the fish industry, Indigenous groups, and other stakeholders, and takes these into account when making management decisions. Overall, the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) amounts are set in order to preserve these important resources now and for generations to come.

“With regard to the relationship between DFO and bargaining agents, it is important to note that the certification of bargaining agents is the decision of fishers in conjunction with provincial legislation. DFO works collaboratively with whomever fishers choose to represent them.”