Frustrated Newfoundland crab fishermen

Frustrated Newfoundland crab fishermen blockade Portuguese trawler ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. (CP) – Newfoundland crab fishermen interrupted the third day of their protest in St. John’s harbour Wednesday to surround a Portuguese ship in what one fisherman described as a “citizen’s arrest.”

The Aveirense, which has been cited for fishing violations just outside Canada’s 200-mile jurisdiction in the North Atlantic, arrived in the port city Wednesday.

For several hours, it was hemmed in by a half dozen fishing vessels after it docked to refuel.

“She’s been charged with many serious fishing violations but I don’t think there has been much penalty,” said Delton McGrath, whose fishing boat was among those surrounding the ship.

“It just seems like it’s exempt from all the rules and regulations while our own people here have to fight tooth and nail to try and survive at this.”

After four hours, the crab boats left the Aveirense to resume their blockade at the harbour’s narrow entrance.

About 50 vessels have been in port since Monday, when they began disrupting marine traffic to rtest a provincial government plan to reorganize the crab industry.

Frustrated fishermen say the province is poised to destroy that industry and foreign trawlers like the Aveirense are destroying the rest.

Under the new provincial measures, crab prices will be determined by an independent audit firm and the amount of raw material producers can process will be capped.

But fishermen are furious that individual processing plants will be given a set percentage of the catch, saying it will strip them of their bargaining power.

“We’re here tied up,” McGrath said in an interview from his boat. “In the meantime, there’s a foreign vessel fishing on our grounds.”

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